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True Colors Fund to Launch National Organization to Raise Awareness Around Gay and Transgender Youth Homelessness

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Forty to None Project, the First of its Kind, Will Educate and Engage the Public to Support Homeless LGBT Youth

NEW YORK – Tomorrow, Grammy and Emmy award-winning artist and advocate Cyndi Lauper will launch the Forty to None Project, a national project of the True Colors Fund aimed at empowering and advocating on behalf of homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, and raising awareness around the issues they face.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, each year between 500,000 and 1.6 million youth in the U.S. are homeless or runaways. And while LGBT youth make up an estimated 3% to 5% of the general U.S. population, they account for as much as 40% of the homeless youth population. This startling disparity is primarily due to family rejection attributed to the young person being gay or transgender, forcing them out of their homes.  The Forty to None project is committed to doing all it can to bring an end to this epidemic and bring that 40% figure to none.

“For far too long gay and transgender youth who are experiencing homelessness have not received the attention, resources and support that they desperately require,” said Lauper.  “As the first national organization that works solely to address the needs of homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth, the Forty to None Project will help fill that void and address the challenges experienced by this long-ignored, but important part of our society. All of us must  join together to stand with America’s next generation so that they can stand on their own.”

To kick-start this effort, Forty to None has produced a public service announcement (PSA) featuring Cyndi Lauper and young people from various New York City based service providers, including the True Colors Residence, The Door, Green Chimneys, and Safe Space, that presents the realities of LGBT youth homelessness through tangible statistics, and encourages the audience to get informed and get involved in the Forty to None Project.  Additionally, the Project launched a website at www.fortytonone.org on June 24th to educate and engage the public, as well as provide resources and information for homeless LGBT youth and the organizations that serve them.

The Forty to None Project stems from a year-long assessment by the True Colors Fund, with the support of The Palette Fund, looking at the current state of affairs for homeless LGBT youth, including the state and level of direct services available to them and the public’s awareness of the issue.  The True Colors Fund has developed an in-depth 5 year strategic plan for the Forty to None Project. The Project will primarily focus in its first year on 3 key areas:

  • Education and Awareness: Inspiring and empowering others to get involved in bringing an end to LGBT youth experiencing homelessness and raising the profile and visibility, as well as generating support of the direct service providers (i.e. shelters, drop in centers, street outreach programs) and other entities working to bring an end to LGBT youth experiencing homelessness.
  • Advocacy: Advocating for LGBT homeless youth at all levels of government, in the media and in communities to ensure proper funding and equal access to the help they need.
  • Empowerment: Developing innovative programs that empower gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth who are at risk of becoming homeless or are experiencing homelessness.

Subsequently, the Forty to None Project will complement the efforts conducted during its first year through the addition of focus areas in Capacity Building and Inclusion Training and Accountability by the end of 2013.

“We’ve done our homework.  We traveled the country, visiting shelters, drop-in centers, outreach programs, advocacy organizations, and importantly, we talked to the kids themselves to identify the best ways we can help to address this crisis,” said Gregory Lewis, executive director of the True Colors Fund.  “Everything we’ve learned in the past year has made it clear that homeless and at-risk gay and transgender youth are being left behind, and that’s why we started the Forty to None Project. We will work tirelessly to ensure that these young people receive the attention, resources and support they need and deserve.”

As part of the assessment, the True Colors Fund, in partnership with The Palette Fund and the Williams Institute at UCLA also conducted a web-based survey to the National Runaway Switchboard’s network of 10,000 direct service providers across the country.  The LGBT Homeless Youth Provider Survey was designed to assess the experiences of homeless youth organizations in providing services and programs to LGBT youth.  It also assessed the prevalence of LGBT youth within the homeless populations being served by these organizations.  In total, 381 respondents completed at least part of the survey, representing 354 agencies throughout the United States.

Initial findings from the survey indicate that among respondents:

  • 30% of homeless and non-homeless clients identified as gay or lesbian and 9% identified as bisexual
  • 1% of homeless and non-homeless clients were identified as “other gender” but at least another percent of the total clientele were transgender youth who were identified on the survey as either male or female
  • 43% of clients served by drop-in centers identified as LGBT; 30% of street outreach clients identified as LGBT
  • 30% of clients utilizing housing programs (emergency shelter, transitional living programs, permanent housing programs, independent living and host home programs) identified as LGBT (26% LGB and 4% T)

Survey responders also stated an increase in the number of LGBT youth with whom they have worked in the past ten years, with nearly all respondents (94%) saying that they worked with LGBT youth clients, compared to 82% of respondents ten years ago.  Additionally, running away from home because of family rejection of a youth’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity was the most frequently cited factor contributing to LGBT youth homelessness.  The next most frequently cited reason for LGBT youth homelessness was youth being forced out of their family homes as a result of coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

The LGBT Homeless Youth Provider Survey was conducted from October 2011 through March 2012.  The full results of the survey, including additional detail on the needs and history of homeless LGBT youth, as well as an overview of the barriers to improving services related to reducing LGBT homelessness, will be released on July 2nd and available at www.fortytonone.org.

True Colors Fund was co-founded by Cyndi Lauper to inspire and engage everyone, especially straight people, to become active participants in the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality and to raise awareness about and bring an end to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth homelessness.