Opinion: The Growth of Homelessness in LA County Isn’t Something LGBTQ People Can Be Proud Of

L.A. Controller Ron Galperin presents this map of free resources to assist homeless and at-risk lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth in the Los Angeles area.

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.

Ron Galperin

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 Institute study found that, across the United States, LGBTQ youth are at more than double the risk of homelessness compared to their non-LGBTQ peers. More than half of all homeless LGBTQ people end up on the streets before they are old enough to vote and about a quarter before even turning 16.

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.


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Josh KurpiesManuel GouveiaEric Jon Schmidt08mellieFB1 Recent comment authors

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Eric Jon Schmidt
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I have been working with the homeless in LA County for years. There are more now than ever. The midnight mission (where I volunteer) is busier than it ever has been. I talk to and interview the homeless in West Hollywood almost daily. Some let me video record the interviews. Many have told me that the new West Hollywood Sheriff station Captain has initiated a policy of taking the homeless from West Hollywood to downtown or other places outside West Hollywood and leaving them there without offering any kind of assistance. Many of the homeless tell me that the Policy… Read more »

Manuel Gouveia
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Manuel Gouveia

Or…how about we just let Darwinism run its course. They are an eyesore and ruin property values.

08mellie
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08mellie

Hey ROn

It’s not housing. That is a political money grab for city hall and contractors. BUILD HOSPITALS NOT HOUSING. PEOPLE NEED MEDICAL, PSYCHIATRIC AND ADDICTION CARE.

Eric Jon Schmidt
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Very good idea! Now that is an example of being a “Creative City”.

FB1
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FB1

amen

Josh Kurpies
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Josh Kurpies

We should be building more housing AND improving our mental health delivery system.

It’s only a question of either/or if we prioritize other expenditures over housing and healthcare.

FB1
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FB1

Why is it that acceptance of gays has skyrocketed over the last 20 years but homelessness of gay youth has risen so dramatically? This doesn’t make sense. “Racism plays out on our streets”? If there is a higher number of young black citizens facing homelessness one would have to look at their family situation more closely. Is a breakdown in the black community’s family units higher than in whites? If so, then the lack of a support system (family) would explain why there is a higher number of homelessness amongst black citizens. It seems today that racism is being blamed… Read more »

TIM
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TIM

What percentage identifies as gay or lesbian & which percentage identifies as transgender? You can’t solve the problem if you keep lumping sexual identity with sexual orientation.