Americans are great at creating spaces that serve our most immediate needs – even if that means sacrificing the needs of our grandchildren. But why haven’t we made it a priority to invest in long-term, sustainable urban development that will pay dividends for future generations?
Starting in the 1950s, American cities tore up their streetcar lines to prioritize and make room for the cars that were crowding city streets. It was this obsession with convenience for the automobile that caused intense and destructive change in American cities. Post-WWII, the Department of Commerce created the Federal Aid Highway Act, which destroyed Black neighborhoods for the sake of highways meant to bring suburban drivers into the city.
In the short-term, these policy choices made it easier to drive a car. In the long term, though, they deeply damaged the fabric of American urban and suburban life. Our dependence on and prioritization of the car has led to lasting effects, ranging from the loss of local businesses and the increase in food deserts to congestion, low air quality, loss of greenspace and the decline of walking.
Within the homeless population, LGBTQ+ people, especially youth, are disproportionately more likely to experience homelessness and do not have access to the services and resources they need within the current system.
A study by the Williams Institute at UCLA found that LGBTQ+ adults are twice as likely to experience homelessness than straight, cisgender adults. Within the LGBTQ+ community, Black people are much more likely than non-black peers to experience homelessness at some point in their lives.
These rates are even higher among homeless youth. There are approximately 1.6 million homeless youth in the United States and LGBTQ+ youth represent 40% of that population. Over half report that the primary reason for homelessness is because of an unsupportive family environment. Additionally, about 60 percent of LGBTQ+ youth report feeling unsafe at school because of bullying and harassment suffered because of their identity.
In addition to being overrepresented within the population of homeless youth, LGBTQ+ children are also more likely to experience mental health disorders, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Transgender people also face unique issues in this space because shelters are typically segregated by gender and they can often be denied access to the correct shelter based on the gender identity. They can also struggle to access transition related care because in most states, Medicaid does not cover these services.
For this reason, PRIDE is launching a donation drive for the Haven Shelter to not only give back to our local community but raise awareness of the disproportionately high rates of homelessness experienced by LGBTQ+ youth and adults. We are also hoping to draw attention to the unique struggles of LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender people, who are experiencing homelessness.
There needs to be action in this policy area to increase support services for LGBTQ+ people experiencing homelessness and to decrease the number of LGBTQ+ people becoming homeless. LGBTQ+ youth need to be supported more within schools and within their homes to reduce the rates of homelessness. There also needs to be an expansion of Medicaid to include access to transition related care services in every state to ensure that transgender youth can access healthcare. Shelters and service providers also need to increase training so that their staff can provide competent care for LGBTQ+ people experiencing homelessness. However, this cannot happen without increased funding to those providing these important services. Communities should also support these shelters by providing them with the necessary resources they need to continue providing services to those experiencing homelessness. We hope you will join us in supporting the Haven Shelter through our resource drive. A full list of the items we are collecting for the Haven can be found on their website.
The views expressed above are solely the author's and are not endorsed by the Virginia Policy Review, The Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, or the University of Virginia. Although this organization has members who are University of Virginia students and may have University employees associated or engaged in its activities and affairs, the organization is not a part of or an agency of the University. It is a separate and independent organization which is responsible for and manages its own activities and affairs. The University does not direct, supervise or control the organization and is not responsible for the organization’s contracts, acts, or omissions.