Serving Our LGBT Youth: From New York to Toronto
Organizations such as Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York has been providing youth services to at-risk LGBT youth since 1979 and they have had extraordinary successes including attracting such notable ambassadors as Andy Bell, Judy Gold, and Carole Pope to name just a few.
Targeting services to at-risk LGBT youth is not about providing separate services, but rather providing safe access to services in a way that enables at-risk kids to get the support they came for. No one should have to be further exploited because they were seeking refuge in a shelter, but that is the ugly reality for LGBT youth experiencing homelessness.
Once again Canada has made LGBT history for the countries first transitional housing designed to address the specific needs of LGBT youth. Sprott House run by the YWCA’s youth housing program provides residential living for up to 25 youth which includes programming that supports their development and life skills.
For many of us within the LGBT community it’s easy to understand the value in providing such a service, but not everyone is so pleased. Arguments opposed to LGBT youth services have ranged from politicians sighting the duplication in services, to my personal favourite, “if we have a shelter for gay kids, why not kids with red hair too?!”. I’d like to see that.
“It breaks my heart when I interview young people and they share stories about how they’re not safe in shelters and how they’re living in parks and in conditions that nobody should be living in”, says Alex Abramovich, Toronto Researcher, Advisory panel for better LGBTQ protections in shelters and mental health services
While there may be some vocal opposition to these types of focused projects what really matters is their overall impact on our society. Are they helping us? Moving us forward as a community and as city? Can their impact be measured? Yes, yes and a big old yes!
“I hope that this is the beginning of a major shift to how we deal with youth homelessness and that with this shift, more emphasis will be placed on longer term solutions and prevention, with the goal of ending LGBTQ2S youth homelessness in Canada”, remarks Abramovich
About the Author
Raymond Helkio is an author, director filmmaker, and graduate of Ontario College of Art & Design. He currently lives in both Toronto and New York. His most recent play, LEDUC, is now available in paperback. www.raymondhelkio.com