As people across the Southland celebrated LGBTQ Pride Month in June, the results of L.A.’s most recent Homeless Count came in, showing a 12% increase in the County’s homeless population over the past year and a 16% spike in the City of Los Angeles. These are numbers that none of us can feel pride in.
Homelessness is the biggest social crisis in Southern California today. The homeless population spans the spectrum of age, gender, ethnicity, race and sexual orientation and expression. But for nearly 9,000 young people under the age of 24 experiencing homelessness, a staggering 40% identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or quesitoning, according to the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
An April 2018 University of Chicago Policy I
This unfortunate reality highlights the challenges that LGBTQ youth too often face, even in big cities like Los Angeles. The University of Chicago study found that 64% of LGBTQ homeless youth left home because they experienced bigotry within their own families. Most also faced discrimination among their peers and were physically assaulted or experienced trauma because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Neglect, substance abuse, mental illness and lack of affordable housing were among other reasons for homelessness.
There is a deep inequity rooted in race as well. African Americans are significantly more likely to experience homelessness — and that’s especially true for African American LGBTQ youth. Historic and ongoing racism continues to play out on our streets.
How can we turn things around? As we build housing and expand services to combat the general problem of homelessness, attention must be paid to the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ youth — especially LGBTQ youth of color. While L.A. has more services and safe and affirming places for LGBTQ youth than most any other city, the needs are greater here too. And given how spread out are region is, finding these resources isn’t often easy for many LGBTQ young people.
To connect the dots, my office partnered with L.A. LGBT Youth Advocates Coalition and created an online LGBTQ Resource Map. The map, located at lacontroller.org/lgbtqresourcemap, spotlights more than 100 organizations in the greater L.A. area that provide housing, health resources, education programs, scholarships, legal services, nutrition assistance and more to LGBTQ youth. A map alone will not end homelessness, but it can help young people find service providers they trust, as we all seek to prevent homelessness and help those in need build and rebuild their lives.