I have known for a while that homelessness among LGBT youth is a problem. Many teenagers either get kicked out or live in fear that they will get kicked out when they come out to their parents. It is estimated that 20 to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT. After completing the Homeless Challenge I have a much better idea not just of how it is to be homeless, but also how it is to be openly LGBT and homeless. Thinking about how toned down my experience was compared to the plight of actual homeless youth makes me sick. Nowhere else in society is homophobia so clearly and destructively expressed.The Homeless Challenge is put on by the National Coalition for the Homeless in cities throughout the country. Fifteen people went on this year's Alternative Spring Break trip to Washington D.C. We were divided into groups of five and spent most of our time walking in groups of two or three. For 48 hours we gave up possessions, showers and money. At night formerly homeless guides kept us safe while we slept on the street in our sleeping bags and layers of clothing. During the day we were encouraged to complete tasks like applying for a job or library card, using the bathroom at a fancy hotel, talking to homeless people and panhandling. We ate at soup kitchens.
After this challenge I reflected on how different my experience would have been if I was flamboyantly gay. I wondered if my homeless peers would have showed me the same friendliness. I wondered about violent reactions and sexual assault. I wondered if I would have been able to find a girlfriend in my dirty, lethargic and isolated state. During our reflection one of my friends remarked that when I thought some men on the streets wanted to sexually assault me it was just fear. Yet this is anything but empty fear. It’s not empty fear when you have the statistics and experience to back it up. Over the next couple days I will continue the homelessness theme by posting data, suggested reading and resources. Any LGBT student who has experienced homelessness and wants to be interviewed should contact me.
I encourage everyone to participate in a homeless challenge and an Alternative Spring Break before they graduate.