Representatives Gwen Moore (D-WI 4) and Mark Pocan (D-WI 2) have introduced legislation which would reauthorize programs designed to help runaway and homeless LGBT youth.
The legislation has been called the Runaway and Homeless Youth Inclusion Act (RHYIA). It was last reauthorized in 2008 as the Reconnecting Homeless Youth Act. The RHYIA would “help ensure that LGBT youth are not discriminated against and that grant recipients have the cultural competency to effectively serve these youth.”
The legislation would also help to provide family support services for those who are struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Moore stated that “I ran away from home when I was an adolescent. It was the first and last time. Living on the streets is a difficult and dangerous experience – one that no child should have to endure. Unfortunately, homelessness is the reality for hundreds of thousands of youth each year. According to some studies, LGBT youth account for up to 40 percent of all homeless youth. LGBT homelessness is an issue that negatively impacts our children, our families and our communities. Omitting these young people from the RHYA sends a powerful message to this population: that addressing their trauma and fear is not a priority. The LGBT youth homelessness experience cannot be ignored.”
Pocan and Moore note that “LGBT youth are disproportionately represented in youth homelessness statistics. The Runaway and Homeless Youth Inclusion Act would require the Family and Youth Service Bureau to compile comprehensive data on the pervasiveness of LGBT youth homelessness.”
Pocan said that “Homelessness is one of the most pressing matters affecting LGBT youth. Young people in the LGBT community are disproportionately at-risk for homelessness, often as a result of the rejection, discrimination, or violence they face simply for being themselves. We have a moral responsibility to ensure that all of our youth, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, have access to life-saving services and safe, welcoming places to stay. By passing the reauthorization of an inclusive Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, we can begin to address this tragic problem and provide needed support to all of our young people in times of need.”
Adding her voice to the legislation is Cyndi Lauper, the co-founder of the True Colors Fund. Lauper has been one of the most vocal supporters of LGBT youth in the nation and been doing a lot to combat LGBT youth homelessness.
Lauper added that “No young person should ever be homeless, let alone because they are gay or transgender, but when they are, we need to ensure that they are treated with dignity and respect when they seek help. I applaud Representatives Moore and Pocan for championing the Runaway and Homeless Youth Inclusion Act. Every young person, no matter who they are, deserves an even break and should never be turned away. If we want a strong future, we need to invest in all of our youth.”