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Leading South Florida gay, lesbian organizations launch LGBTQ Youth Homeless Initiative

News release from the LGBTQ Youth Homelessness Initiative, expected to officially launch in early September:

Collaboration to Provide Safe Housing, LGBTQ-Specific Services and Foster Home Placement, Family Reunification or Transition into Independence

Miami – August 27, 2013 – Seven South Florida organizations, individually committed to either addressing issues of homelessness, LGBTQ youth or LGBTQ equality,  and State Representative David Richardson (D, Miami Beach) have joined to form a unique coalition that will seek to identify and reduce the number of LGBTQ youth 24-years-old and younger who are homeless in Miami-Dade County. The LGBTQ Youth Homelessness Initiative is expected to launch in early September.

“Our community needs assessment reported that an astonishing 34% of youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or who question their sexual identity have been kicked out of their homes here in Miami-Dade County,” said Carla Silva, executive director of The Alliance for GLBTQ Youth. “Additionally, an LGBTQ youth is likely to be physically or sexually victimized by seven or more people and run away from home almost twice as often as his or her heterosexual counterpart.”

Added Robin Schwartz, executive director of Aqua Foundation for Women, “Currently, there are no comprehensive housing solutions to care for displaced youth that are also equipped to deal with the special circumstances of an LGBTQ youth. This collaboration is going to change that.”

More than a year in development, the collaborative began as conversations between Pridelines Youth Services and The Alliance on how to address the disturbing growth of LGBTQ youth homelessness. Both organizations were dealing with the issue on a youth-by youth basis and they recognized the need for consistent housing solutions and an integrated approach to the problem. But they both lacked funding.  State Representative Richardson worked to secure state funding for safe housing and selected Citrus Health Network to lead this part of the effort.  Additional funding was still needed to provide for a full-time LGBTQ Homeless Liaison.  Enter Aqua Foundation which not only pledged grant money but also secured the participation – and funding – of The GLBT Community Projects Fund at The Miami Foundation and Our Fund for the LGBT Homeless Service Liaison.

Key to the success of this initiative according to Victor Diaz-Herman, executive director of Pridelines, will be that liaison. “The Alliance and Pridelines will jointly train and supervise the liaison who will work with Citrus Health Network staff to develop and administer the new LGBTQ-specific youth homeless programming. Citrus has an excellent track record of emergency and transitional homeless housing assistance and with our guidance, the liaison will be able to tailor the needs of LGBTQ youth to the successful Citrus model. The liaison will also be responsible for identifying youth in-need and linking them with appropriate service providers among many other responsibilities.”

“Considering that LGBTQ youth are grossly over-represented in homeless populations and that their risk factors for abuse, exploitation and marginalization are at significantly increased rates, it is imperative that LGBTQ-specific programming and oversight by LGBTQ-centric service providers be central into this initiative,” added Silva. “This LGBTQ perspective is what is missing in traditional youth homeless initiatives here.”

Short-term, the collaborative is committed to getting LGBTQ homeless youth off the street and out of dangerous situations. Long-term, the objective is to acquire a consistent funding stream so that the initiative is sustainable and can increase the number of foster homes willing to house displaced LGBTQ youth. An overarching mission of the collective is to increase LGBTQ cultural competency across the homeless system of care throughout the county and the state.

Coalition participants and their roles in the LGBTQ Youth Homelessness Initiative include:

· State Representative David Richardson, the first openly gay member of the Florida Legislature, secured special state funding of $100,000 for the initiative’s housing-related costs and selected Citrus Health Network to lead this effort.  Using matching and local funds, Citrus has already added approximately $50,000 to the initial amount for a total of $150,000.

· The Alliance for GLBTQ Youth, which has produced numerous reports and studies on the issue of LGBTQ youth homelessness in South Florida, will hire, train and supervise a full-time LGBTQ Youth Homeless Service Liaison who will identify and bridge the gap between LGBTQ homeless youth and the initiative’s service providers. The Liaison will also develop LGBTQ-specific programming to address the specialized needs of these youth.

· Pridelines Youth Services, South Florida’s oldest LGBTQ youth services provider, will station the Homeless Service Liaison out of its youth drop-in center in Miami Shores as well as provide wrap-around services for initiative participants such as meals, job readiness training and access to resources via the Internet through its David Bohnett Cybercenter.

· Citrus Health Network will receive state funding to provide housing and support services to participating youth. Citrus will provide this innovative safe haven program until the youth can be transitioned into foster care, reunited with family or readied for independent living. Citrus will also leverage the state funding with housing funds from Miami-Dade Homeless Trust and Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe to provide financial assistance to help young adults obtain their own apartment.

· Aqua Foundation for Women has committed to help fund the initiative for the next three years. This initiative is the first funding recipient that the Aqua board has approved for a three-year grant. For the first year of the initiative, Aqua has committed to $33,333. Additionally, Aqua reached out to the two other funding organizations and secured their participation and will continue to seek additional funding resources to sustain and grow the initiative.

· The GLBT Community Projects Fund at The Miami Foundation. The Fund has committed to $33,333 over the next 12 months. Grant funding for The Miami Foundation comes from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force through the proceeds generated from Winter Party Festival and the Miami Recognition Dinner. Since 2005, 40% of the grants from the GLBT Community Projects Fund at The Miami Foundation have gone toward projects concerning and benefitting youth.

· Our Fund pledged $33,333 to fund the initiative for the first 12 months from various donor-advised funds. Our Fund is a South Florida LGBT community foundation that was organized in January 2011 and has distributed almost $800,000 in grants to non-profit organizations serving the LGBT community. The foundation is committed to connecting South Florida's donors to important issues that create impact, such as this initiative.

· SAVE Dade, the county’s leading LGBTQ advocacy organization, worked with Representative Richardson to identify, review, and evaluated potential partners for the housing effort.  In the end, they together selected Citrus Health Network to lead the LGBTQ housing effort and immediately began working to secure state funding.


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