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LGBTQ youth at greatest risk for homelessness 

Up to 1.6 million youth across America experience homelessness each year, and 40 percent of them identify as LGBTQ, according to the True Colors Fund. Rochester is no exception, Center for Youth director Elaine Spaull said at a recent press conference. The event marked the launching of By Their Side, a Center for Youth campaign to raise awareness and funds to provide housing for homeless LGBTQ youth in Rochester. 
click to enlarge Assemblyman Harry Bronson - FILE PHOTO
  • Assemblyman Harry Bronson

LGBTQ youth are especially vulnerable to homelessness, for a variety of reasons, Assemblyman Harry Bronson said at the event.  LGBTQ teens often get kicked out of their home or run away, Bronson said, because they sense rejection in what is supposed to be their own safe environment.

"Survival mode engulfs them," Bronson said. "Education becomes a luxury, and they frequently turn to risky, immediate gratification behavior. "

"There is an intersection that starts with self-awareness of who these young people are and ends with homelessness," Spaull said. They become vulnerable to sex trafficking, unsafe sex, and violence, she said.

Even telling the personal stories of these young people as a way to educate the public about the issue poses risks for them, said Valerie Douglas, Center for Youth's director of counseling.  Their stories may identify their families or people who victimize them, she said.

"Your family rejects you, you have limited options, and you end up homeless, said Douglas. "Then you meet someone who says: 'I'll take care of you,' and the abuse begins."

A house has been donated to the Center for Youth, Spaull said, but it will take about $125,000 a year to operate it as a shelter for homeless youth.  The Center is holding a reception for the new campaign on Monday, February 5, at Living Roots Wine and Co., 1255 University Avenue, at 6 p.m.


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