Nearly 40% of Homeless Youths Are LGBT, and I'm Currently One of Them

I don’t look homeless, but I am. Nearly 40% of homeless youth in America identify as LGBT, and we are resourceful, connected and do our best to blend into the crowd so we are not seen. At present, like many LGBT homeless youths, I am couch hopping – relying on the hospitality of friends and acquaintances for a couch to sleep on each night.

I wasn’t always dependent on the kindness of others. I have a high school degree, and I was accepted into the University of the Arts in Philadelphia on a full scholarship two years ago. Even though I desperately wanted to go, and I’ve known I was queer since I was a child, I matriculated at a Christian college at my mother’s request.

I’d grown up in a very spiritual family, and learned from an early age that it was frowned upon to be queer. Overhearing my family say negative comments about other LGBT people made me censor myself in their presence, lest they discover that I was too. By the time I went away to school, I was used to censoring myself, so it didn’t feel like it would be so difficult to continue to do so at college.

But the strict nature of this school forced me to question the faith I’d shared with my family, and I was confused, irritated, restricted and unhappy. At the cost of my family and their financial support, I decided that I’d rather be on my own, make my own decisions and thrive than remain in such a dark place.

I was successful for a while; I had a job, continued with school, had a relationship and a shared apartment. Unfortunately, I lost my job and was illegally and abruptly evicted from the apartment that I’d lived in for two years. During this tough time, I spent all my savings to complete my finals for school, trying to find a hotel room to sleep in each night and find transportation to apply for jobs. At times, I was forced to sleep in my moving truck.

But I was determined to find a job and present myself in the best manner possible. Once finals were completed, I dressed to the nines and applied to the first store that I saw at the mall. A few moments later, I walked out with a new job. My next focus was finding a home of my own, so that I could get out of the cycle of hotels, overnights in the moving truck and the courtesy of friends with a spare couch.

Knowing of my housing struggles, a good friend told me about a housing program at Valley Youth House, here in Pennsylvania, that invests in youth like me. The Pride Program assists homeless LGBT youth to find stable housing, obtain and maintain a job, save money, build permanent connections and learn valuable life skills. I recently applied, interviewed and began apartment searching with the help of Valley House House’s Pride Program Life Skills Counselor.

Now that I am accepted into the Pride Program, I am working diligently on my goals with my life skills counselor. Our primary focus has been finding innovative ways to budget my time and money. Obviously, we are also discussing my best options to find an apartment that I can afford to remain in – to get off of the couch – once the rental assistance ends.

I plan to be moved into an apartment with a carefully picked roommate by November, with hopes of returning to school for the Fall 2016 semester. I want to pursue my bachelors in political science, and eventually become an attorney for LGBT youth. It has become my passion to help and aid others.

I’m still committed to the values my mother instilled in me: to serve, be honest, love God and put up a fight for what I want. But I had to leave the people I loved to finally be myself.

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