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More Help Coming For Houston’s Homeless LGBT Teens

The people who keep track of Houston’s homeless population say one of every four homeless kids in the area is gay or lesbian. A new organization hopes to get specialized help for those kids before they fall victim to the perils of street life.

Homeless sleeping on the sidewalk
Homeless sleeping on the sidewalk

When parents reject their gay children, or when a gay teenager runs away from an abusive foster home, it doesn’t take long for those kids to find trouble.

“If they’re not reached within 72 hours of being homeless, they fall into drugs and sex,” says Jeff Hoffman, the chair of the recently-formed Homeless Gay Kids-Houston.

Gay teenagers who lose the support of their families often turn to desperate measures for survival. Hoffman says many resort to prostitution for food and shelter. Some self-medicate with illicit drugs, occasionally with fatal consequences.

A number of churches and nonprofit groups offer help to Houston’s LGBT homeless.  But that assistance can be inconsistent and difficult to rely on, or it is targeted to young adults. By law, minors cannot sign themselves into a shelter, and there’s virtually no funding to house homeless kids who aren’t part of a family.

“I think that there’s a perception by policymakers and other funders that if you’re a kid under 18, that you can be taken care of by the existing Child Protective Services infrastructure and through foster care.  A lot of these kids still feel unsafe in those environments, and so there’s a real lack of trust, there. And for these kids, they make the decision that it is easier for them to survive if they’re doing it on the street, than in an abusive home,” Hoffman said.

That’s where Homeless Gay Kids-Houston (HGK-H) comes in. The group is working to build a seven-day-a-week drop-in center in Montrose where teens and young adults of any sexual orientation can get a meal, along with connections to counseling, health care, job placement, legal services, and, most importantly, help to rebuild the trust they lost when they were forced out of their homes.

“People who were homeless gay kids and who are now adults — they say the one thing that makes the biggest difference in their lives is that person who is not paid to be there who cared,” Hoffman said, adding that’s why HGK-H is using a volunteer-driven model. The group is seeking people to help with counseling, teaching life skills, and providing other basic services.

The group is not receiving any public funding or grants. It’s trying to raise nearly $300,000 in private donations to get the drop-in center up and running for its first year. A location has already been selected, and the goal is for the center to open sometime in the first half of 2016.

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David Pitman

David Pitman

Host, Morning Edition

Hi there. I’m glad you found me. Let me take a moment to answer some of the questions you might have about me and my job. I have worked as Morning Edition Host and reporter at News 88.7 since August of 2009. Previously, I hosted Morning Edition at WMFE in...

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