Gay homeless youths get new facility

October 9, 2012

Today, 30-40 percent of the homeless youth in Los Angeles are LGBT. Too many fall into abusive or transactional relationships dominated by drugs, alcohol and exchanging sexual favors for a shower, a meal and a bed for the night.

The new facility increases the number of beds available to LGBTQ youths by 14.

This week, the LA Gay & Lesbian Center moved all the services that it previously provided for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth at its Jeff Griffith Youth Center to the second floor of its new Highland Annex facility.

The larger 12,675-square foot Youth Center on Highland provides space for 20 emergency overnight beds and room to care for even more people (ages 12-24) with services and support that include three meals/day, clothing, showers, counseling, a GED preparation program, employment assistance and much more.

The youths at the old facility posted notes of gratitude on their bulletin board before departing for the new facility.

“Since the earliest days of the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, we’ve been caring for homeless youth,” says Center CEO Lorri L. Jean.

“Through our advocacy and many youth programs, we’re fighting to make the world better for young LGBT people so that future generations don’t face the same struggles.

“But the stark reality is that this problem isn’t going away anytime soon. We never want to turn away a young person who is in dire straits, and the number of youth turning to us for help continues to climb. Moving our homeless youth services to our new Highland Annex will give us the capacity to care for more youth in need than ever before.”

The new facility is close by at 1220 N. Highland Ave., just four blocks east of the former youth center.

Nationwide LGBT youth face homelessness at alarming rates.

Today, 30-40 percent of the homeless youth in Los Angeles are LGBT—that’s about 2,300 young people living on the streets.

Many have been rejected by their families because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

They come from all over the United States to Los Angeles hoping to find someone with whom to stay.

Too many fall into abusive or transactional relationships dominated by drugs, alcohol and exchanging sexual favors for a shower, a meal and a bed for the night.

According to a recent study published by pediatricians in Houston, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), pregnancy, trauma, tuberculosis, uncontrolled asthma, and dermatologic infestations are a few of the health problems these youth commonly face.

These somatic problems are compounded by high rates of drug and alcohol abuse as well as depression and suicide.

Despite the obvious need for medical services, homeless youth often do not receive appropriate medical care due to numerous individual and systems barriers impeding health care access by this population.

The new facility on Highland has more beds.

In addition to the barriers experienced by the adult homeless population, homeless adolescents confront further hurdles stemming from their age and developmental stage.

Some of these impediments include a lack of knowledge of clinic sites, fear of not being taken seriously, concerns about confidentiality, and fears of police or social services involvement.

Other affected Los Angeles LGBT homeless youths have aged out of the foster care system, which far too many leave at age 18 without finding permanent homes.

Like the Jeff Griffith Youth Center, the new Youth Center on Highland will open its doors seven days a week, including holidays.

The facility, designed pro bono by HOK Architects, includes a large and comfortable common room with a big-screen TV adjacent to a dining room, computer lab and study room to prepare for the GED (high school equivalency) exam.

The 20 beds for overnight stays (available later this year)—14 more than the Center has now—will be adjacent to showers, laundry facilities and a clothing closet where young people can get both casual and professional clothes.

The youths at the old facility posted notes of gratitude on their bulletin board before departing for the new facility.

A grant from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is funding 10 of the new beds.

The youth center will continue to be the entry point for those ready to join the Center’s nearby 24-bed Transitional Living Program, which offers a home where LGBT youth can live for up to 18 months while working or pursuing their education and developing the skills and resources to live independently.

Last week, youth said goodbye to the Jeff Griffith facility—which first opened its doors in 1996—by posting notes about what it meant to them.

That building was named in honor of the late Jeff Griffith, who turned to the Center as a homeless youth.

Mr. Griffith’s friend Charlie Whitebread made a generous gift that helped make it possible for the Center to expand its services for homeless LGBT youth.