“By Your Side” Campaign Raises Money and Awareness to Combat LGBT Youth Homelessness

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Local advocates are unveiling a new effort to not only get LGBT youth off the street, but prevent them from ever ending up there in the first place. A fundraiser and reception at Living Roots on Monday evening was one of the first events in the Center for Youth’s “By Your Side” campaign.

According to the Center for Youth, LGBT youth are disproportionately more likely to become homeless and about two-thirds of those interviewed said family rejection was the primary cause of their homelessness. Staff and advocates there started this campaign to raise funds and awareness about the plight homeless LGBT youth face and to secure LGBT-only housing for the Center in the near future.

“In December, I was talking with Elaine Spaull, at the Transgender Day of Remembrance event we both were a part of, and she mentioned that there was this potential project to provide housing for LGBTQ homeless youth- and I knew that I wanted to dedicate my birthday to raising awareness and funds for this important cause,” said Ginett. The reception doubled as his 30th birthday party as Ginett sought to do something meaningful with his birthday and give back.

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“With statistics like LGBTQ youth being 120% more at risk for homelessness, and youth that identify on the LGBTQ spectrum make up to 40% of the homeless youth population, and how vulnerable they can be to trafficking, mental health issues, unsafe sex practices, it’s important that housing services like this exist,” he continued.

They are also more likely to be sexually and physically abused, manipulated or engaged in crime or as a victim of crime, according to the Center. Ginett has personal experience with this campaign; he has also been homeless. Ginett said he was homeless at 18, couch hopping and depending on loved ones for shelter.

“I’ll also never forget the generosity and love shown to my by family members- like my aunty, uncle and cousins. They opened their home to me, and provided me with the love and support that got me through one of my darkest times,” he said.

“I’ll never forget what I went through when I was homeless- the loss of stability, the vulnerability, panic and uncertainty,” – Ginett.

“I had a couple friends but nowhere to really go, no, like experts, to help me navigate my way. I think sometimes our kids get trafficked because they don’t know what trafficking is,” said Jamaal Lewis-Payne, a gay black man now in his 40s. “If you don’t have a place to stay, nothing to eat, if someone tells you ‘hey, you can make $100 real quick’ and you think they love you, well this is how this happens.”

State Assemblyman Harry Bronson spoke at a press conference last week about the issue. As the state’s only out representative, he says he’s heard too many horror stories about young LGBT.

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“The causes in the stories of this homeless are varied but they often have similar themes. A younger teenager is kicked out of their home because of who they are or they run away because of the unbearable treatment of being something different and other,” he said.

And Black LGBT youth are particularly at risk because of family and social dynamics that ramp up the likelihood their families will kick them out upon coming out.

“Unfortunately, there are few statistical studies specifically focusing on the percentage of LGBT homeless youth who are also of a racial minority,” writes Michelle Page in this 2017 study. “Yet, in the few studies that have addressed racial diversity amongst LGBT homeless youth, LGBT homeless youth tended to be disproportionately people of color.”

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Scotty Ginett poses at the reception. Credit: Michele Ashlee

But she says she found that LGBT youth of color are more likely to be homeless and more likely to stay homeless: “Racial and sexual minorities are more likely to become homeless because of their higher likelihood of poverty, lower exposure to education, and other negative situational circumstances.22 These factors also make their homelessness harder to correct.”

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“I actually tried to hide who I was for a very long time,”  said Lewis-Payne. He says he was forced to stay with friends when he was 16. “I didn’t even come out but look at me, I’m very gay and well, a lot of people were coming down on my mom. Saying I was gay because she raised me alone so I left.”

“When Elaine Spaull, Jason Roberts (Marketing and Development at the Center) and I met in late December, to work on details for tonight’s reception, we talked about how our youth need a strong partner by their side, and that’s where the campaign name came from- By Their Side,” said Ginett. “With generous community partners, we can see this initiative become a reality. We can assist our LGBTQ youth, and work to connect them to services and help them get back on their feet…We can be the strong partner, by their side.”

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