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Bay Area organizations provide support for unhoused LGBT youth

Bay Area organizations provide needed support for unhoused LGBT youth
Bay Area organizations provide needed support for unhoused LGBT youth 04:13

Young people in the LGBTQ community experience homelessness at much higher rates than their peers, but one local hero in San Francisco is making a difference after overcoming her own struggles.

Drag queen Linda Summers is a testament to resilience and transformation. When she was 20, Summers didn't have a home for almost three years. She bounced from shelter to shelter until she found comfort and help through the nonprofit, At The Crossroads.

"I feel like there weren't a lot of queer folks around, and it was really hard to connect with the counselors there. I felt I needed to go elsewhere to get support," Summers recalled.

Linda's journey began because her family wasn't supportive - a story she hears all too often from her clients. Today, she helps others in the LGBTQ community as a counselor at the place that supported her during her time of need.

"I really have to keep in mind that I get to be a beacon of hope for them in that moment. That things will get better," Summers said.

During Pride, Summers leads efforts to get more people involved. She was the star of this year's "We All Belong" Block Party, which drew almost 200 people to Kapwa Gardens in SOMA on June 1st.

"We know that 68% of our population are black and brown youth. We know that a large percentage-around 40%-of the youth we serve are also LGBTQ. When I look at this group, I see rock stars, I see so much talent, I see so much potential. An event like this allows us to bring that potential in," said Artavia Berry, Executive Director of At the Crossroads.

Berry pointed out that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented among young people experiencing homelessness.

"When we go out on outreach every year, we see anywhere from 1,400 to 1,600 young folks out on the streets," she explained.

According to the SF LGBT Center, nearly half of San Francisco's homeless youth are LGBTQ. The Trevor Project reports even higher rates among transgender and nonbinary youth, with around 40% of transgender people and 35% of nonbinary youth experiencing homelessness, compared to 23% of cisgender LGBTQ youth.

In Oakland, the situation is similar. Ashlee Banks, who helps young people at the Oakland LGBTQ Center, explained that many of these kids don't have a place to live because their families don't accept them for who they are.

"I think for LGBTQ youth, it's getting more complicated because they get forced into sex work and exposed to drugs. Now they're on the streets, and our homeless encampments are getting more full because they're pushed out and don't have any place to go," said Banks.

Banks also noted that many LGBTQ youth reject the idea of going to a shelter.

"When you put an LGBTQ child in those spaces, they feel the fear of being rejected, and others reject the unknown. The LGBTQ child would be the unknown, so how do they navigate through that as a kid? It's hard," she said.

Amin Robinson, a youth coordinator at the Oakland LGBTQ Center, agreed.

"What we really need is a trans safe haven where trans and queer youth can go to have an opportunity to get their lives in order," he said.

Organizations like At The Crossroads and the Oakland LGBTQ Center are vital in providing much-needed support to LGBTQ homeless youth. Their work during Pride month and beyond helps shine a light on these issues and offers a beacon of hope for many.

"My life now-today-is full of love, full of color. I think it's important to know that there was a time when I didn't feel like there was a sense of belonging for me anywhere. I feel like I found it through ATC and other similar organizations," Summers said.

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