Federal funding is currently being awarded to shelters without any requirement that they not discriminate against homeless gay and transgender youth. This lapse in protection of such a vulnerable community translates into shelters that are unfriendly, and sometimes downright hostile, toward gay and transgender youth.
Obviously, religious groups are free to believe whatever they want. But any organization—religious or not—that treats homeless gay and transgender youth differently than straight homeless youth should not receive any taxpayer dollars. The Runaway Homeless Youth Act, last renewed in 2003, should be amended to require federally funded homeless shelters to accommodate the needs of gay and transgender youth without discrimination. The National Center for Transgender Equality has suggested that a certification process should also be initiated so that homeless shelters that competently cater to LGBT needs can advertise this fact and so that gay and transgender youth in search of such shelters can easily find them.
In order to receive federal subsidies and pass such a certification process, homeless shelters should be required to adopt:
- Treating gay and transgender youth with respect and ensuring their safety
- Affirming gay and transgender youth’s identities rather than challenging or trying to alter them
- Facilitating access to supportive education, medical care, and mental health care
- Connecting youth with local LGBT programs, resources, and services designed specifically for the LGBT community
- Adopting written nondiscrimination plans
- Educating employees about who gay and transgender youth are and what they need from a homeless shelter
“National Recommended Best Practices for Serving LGBT Homeless Youth,” a document created by a coalition of LGBT advocacy and children’s rights organizations, presents a compendium of such recommendations for what homeless shelters can do to best serve gay and transgender youth.
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