Addressing LGBTQ Youth Homelessness in Charleston

17523379_1432713953440086_8705275825541930462_nThrough the LGBTQ Rights Toolkit Fund, an initiative of the Southern Equality Fund (SEF), the Campaign for Southern Equality provided a grant of $3,000 to We Are Family to support the Charleston YOUth Count. This will be the first ever assessment of youth housing instability and food insecurity in Charleston.

“We Are Family has experienced a high volume of calls this year from LGBTQ youth who have been kicked out of their homes by parents who do not accept them for who they are,” says Melissa Moore, Executive Director of We Are Family. “Charleston YOUth Count is a critical step in understanding – and informing responses to – youth in our community.”

It is estimated that thousands of young people under the age of 25 in Charleston lack access to adequate housing and nutrition, but accurate city-wide data does not exist. A new survey conducted at the College of Charleston found that 30% (3,375) of the student population at the university live without adequate housing or nutrition.

Young people without housing tend to couch surf, double up in hotel rooms, or trade sex for shelter; they are also less likely to access services like emergency shelters. As a result, they are often overlooked in traditional counts of homelessness.

South Carolina is home to an estimated 107,000 LGBTQ adults who live at an elevated risk of being low-income, unemployed, and without health insurance, according to recent research from The Williams Institute. However, there is very little available data about LGBTQ youth in South Carolina, and YOUth Count represents a groundbreaking effort to begin documenting the experience of homeless youth – including LGBTQ youth – in the state.

The study is expected to be completed in January 2018 and will inform the development of resources and services specifically designed for youth in Charleston. “There is a small window of time to intervene when a young person is on the street before they become vulnerable to trauma. Within 24 hours, a young person will likely be offered drugs. Within 48-72 hours, a young person will likely be asked (or forced) to trade sex for survival. Gender and sexual minority status exacerbates these risks. Though an estimated 7 percent of young people identify as LGBTQ, they represent 40 percent of youth experiencing homelessness,” says Moore.

“We’re honored to support the critical work that We Are Family is doing. Youth experiencing homelessness need immediate support, but they also need to know they are loved and not alone. We Are Family is doing heroic work to make sure this happens in Charleston,” says Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality.

Read more coverage of the Charleston YOUth Count here.

Through the LGBTQ Rights Toolkit Fund, we provide direct support to trailblazing LGBTQ-friendly providers and LGTBQ-health related initiatives that are working to overcome health disparities among LGBTQ Southerners. This fund was created based in our belief that people must be safe, healthy and able to meet basic needs in order to have the resources and resilience to reach their potential as leaders; in this way, ensuring access to services that meet immediate needs is part of the long-term project of movement building and achieving lived equality in the South.

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