Houston Made LGBT Inclusion a Priority. Here’s What Happened.

Aug 2017

Safe Space Sticker

We trained hundreds of staff members from homelessness service providers across Houston/Harris County, TX on LGBT inclusion.

Young people experiencing homelessness will often avoid getting the support they need out of fear of discrimination. This is especially true for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth – who face prejudice simply for being themselves. That’s why it’s so important that service providers are welcoming, inclusive, and safe for all young people. It can mean the difference between a young person getting the support they need and staying out on their own.

We wanted to put this idea into action on a large scale, so we partnered the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County and The Way Home, which work together to prevent and end homelessness in Houston and Harris County, TX to train all local service providers on LGBT inclusion. From July 6 to August 7, 2017, over 800 staff members from dozens of service provider organizations across Houston and Harris County participated in the first ever True U Challenge.

The True U Challenge builds upon the great work already being done in Houston – like the LGBTQ Youth Homelessness Prevention Initiative – by preparing staff to fully support any young person who walks through the door. Every staff member a young person interacts with has the ability to affect their life for the better. That’s why individual training is so important to ending the experience of homelessness.

This training will change the lives of LGBT youth experiencing homelessness for the better.

It’s already having an impact! Here’s what participants had to say:

“We work with a lot of transgender clients and I think this brought more awareness to the struggles and challenges they face more than our cisgender clients. In order to understand LGBT youth homelessness, you have to understand the unique perspectives of LGBT youth.”

“I was struck particularly around the idea that we never really know how many LGBTQ clients we serve. As a service provider for people affected by domestic violence, it will often come up as we discuss the violence and their partner. But I wonder if we do enough to make our office/program welcoming, which would more easily allow the disclosure. Since all of our front line staff took the training – there was dialogue around the subject in the office.”

“As an agency we are now talking about the issue. Before, we were all aware, but not really talking about it, at least not collectively.”

“The eye opener for us was the question we asked ourselves, ‘What will be different now?’ Many answered, ‘Nothing.’ But on closer inspection we realized that much could be different… We have already started making changes – mostly structural things like changes to intake forms and database in which clients will self-identify with the title that suits them best, and the same for gender.”

The knowledge gained through this training will only continue to grow and spread throughout Houston and Harris County. As it does, more young people will be able to get the services they need.

True U gets everyone on the same page.

The True U Online Training Platform is designed to guide people toward LGBT competency in an interactive way and at their own pace. Through short-form videos, articles, podcasts, and quizzes, True U helps individuals working with youth to better serve LGBT young people experiencing homelessness. True U provides organizations with simple ways to create inclusive policies and procedures, while giving a baseline for LGBT issues and terminology so that everyone is on the same page.

The True U platform is available free of charge to the True Colors Fund’s 40 to None Network members. The 40 to None Network is a collective of professionals who are working to address LGBT youth homelessness, or whose work has the potential to impact the issue. To sign up for the Network visit: www.truecolorsunited.org/network.

Can’t stop, won’t stop. Learn more at the 40 to None Summit.

Houston and the True Colors Fund alike learned a lot throughout this process. We’ll be sharing lessons learned and strategies for how other communities can step up at our annual 40 to None Summit (October 3-4, 2017; Philadelphia, PA). Hope to see you there!


Register for the 40 to None Summit


NOTE: Participants left anonymous for privacy purposes.