Today, the True Colors Fund and Covenant House International, the largest network of shelters for homeless youth across North and Central America, announced a groundbreaking partnership to ensure safe, inclusive, and affirming beds for the disproportionate number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth experiencing homelessness and in need of shelter and supportive services across the country.
Covenant House, which offers shelter to more than 1,900 homeless youth every night in 27 cities across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua is expanding the overall number of beds dedicated to homeless youth, including gay and transgender youth. The purpose of this new partnership is to support and strengthen programs and services available for gay and transgender youth served by Covenant House.
While gay and transgender youth make up only seven percent of the total youth population, they comprise up to 40 percent of all youth experiencing homelessness in America. Together, the True Colors Fund and Covenant House are committed to reversing this trend and providing help to homeless youth, many of whom become homeless after their families reject them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“At the heart of the True Colors Fund’s work is supporting service providers in ensuring the safest and most affirming care possible for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth experiencing homelessness. For us, partnering on this effort is a natural fit and speaks volumes about Covenant House’s commitment to providing the best possible support to all youth,” said Cyndi Lauper, co-founder of the True Colors Fund. The partnership is beginning with Covenant House in New York City, and will expand to include other Covenant Houses in the US, Canada, and Latin America over the next year.
“We are excited about working with Cyndi and the True Colors Fund team to help homeless youth cross the bridge from homelessness to hope,” said Audra McDonald, a six-time Tony Award winning actress and a member of the Covenant House International Board of Directors.
According to Serving Our Youth, a 2012 report issued by the True Colors Fund and the Williams Institute, the majority of gay and transgender youth experiencing homelessness across the country access services from mainstream, or non-lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender specific, service providers. Given the disproportionate number of homeless youth who are gay and/or transgender, it is critical that all organizations are knowledgeable about and able to implement best practices for serving these youth, affirming their identities, and keeping them safe. The True Colors Fund has developed the True Inclusion Assessment, a tool that is meant to do just that, which Covenant House sites are implementing over the next several months.
“Our mission calls us to help kids leave the streets, believe in themselves and celebrate their dignity just as they are,” said Covenant House International President Kevin Ryan, who co-authored the national best-seller Almost Home (Turner 2012), which recounts the plight of homeless teenagers in North America, including 18 year old Meagan who was kicked out of her home because she is a lesbian. “This is not complicated: we are called to love all homeless young people unconditionally and with absolute respect.”
Want to get involved? Join us and Covenant House International on November 20, for their Candlelight Vigil to Honor All Homeless Youth! From 6 to 7 pm EST, young people and supporters will gather in Times Square in New York City (as well as at local vigils in communities across the world) to light a candle in honor of the estimated 2 million young people each year whose lives are impacted by homelessness. The evening will be a time to publicly recognize these youth, as well as celebrate their strength, resiliency, and successes.
In addition to being the date of the vigil, November 20 is also Transgender Day of Remembrance. According to a new study by the Family and Youth Services Bureau, Administration on Children, Youth and Families nearly 7% of youth experiencing homelessness surveyed identified as transgender. As we come together for this year’s Candlelight Vigil, we remember the many homeless youth – and, on this day, especially transgender youth – who have lost their lives to violence and the streets due to prejudice and rejection.
Join the conversation online using #Out4HomelessYouth! Regardless of whether you’re attending a vigil or can’t make it, we invite you to light up social media in honor of all homeless youth. Give it a share on Facebook and Twitter!