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By Kyle Rush (http://www.flickr.com/photos/kylerush/4003100028/) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act Introduced

By Rachel L. West
Advocacy and Community Outreach Specialist 

On July 23rd Senator Patrick Leahy introduced a bill to reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act.  S. 2646 will:

  • Provide funding for research, training, coordination, aftercare service, suicide prevention services and more.
  • Expressly prohibit discrimination against anyone based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity,  sexual orientation, or disability by a program receiving funding from the act.
  • Mandate that data on trafficking and sexual exploitation of homeless and runaway youth be collected.

In “The Experiences and Unmet Needs of LGBT Homeless Youth
the Center for American Progress called for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act to be reauthorized with specific provisions for LGBT youth. Other than the non-discrimination clause mentioned above, no such provisions appear in this version of the bill.

Some studies suggest that between 20-47% of street youth identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (LGBT). With 3-5% of the United States population identifying as LGBT it is clear to see that LGBT youth experience homelessness at a disproportionate rate compared to hetersexual teens. Furthermore LGBT homeless and runaway youth come up against additional barriers to accessing services that their hetrosexual peers do not face.

Many LGBT youth report experiencing discrimination at shelters. Many shelters segregate residents based on the sex they were assigned at birth, not the sex or gender they identify as. This creates problems for transgender youth seeking assistance. Many studies have found that lack of cultural competency among service providers and foster families often leads to youth running away from the shelters and homes they were placed in by social services. Despite such a large percentage of LGBT youth being in need of shelter services there are very few beds specifically set aside for them.

Let’s look at the recent case of Jane Doe in ConnecticutJane is a 16 year old transgender girl who was placed in an adult prison because the Connecticut Department of Children and Families did not know how to provide appropriate services for her. She was never charged with a crime. After 70 days in the adult facility Jane was moved to a Juvenile detention center for boys. This is a clear indicator that CT DCF is incompetent when it comes to protecting and helping transgender youth.

The Forty to None project is lobbying for an increase of $3,000,000 to go towards funding studies of LGBT homelessness. Furthermore they are asking for “The reassignment of federal demonstration grant money to test intervention strategies for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) youth.”  They are also backing the passage of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Inclusion Act of 2013 (HR. 2955). 

Introduced last summer, HR 2955 would amend The Runaway and Homeless Youth act so that it specifically mentions LGBT youth. It mandates programs funded under the Runaway and Homeless youth Act to collect data about the gender expression and sexual orientation of the clients being served by programs receiving grant money from the act. Additionally transitional living programs would be required to provide culturally competent services. They would have to provide proof that they can provide services to sexual and gender minority youth to Health and Human Services.

Additional Reading:

The Unmet Needs Of LGBT Youth: Social Welfare System Failures In The US

Affirming Practice: Bisexuality Definitions & Resources

Photo Credit: By Kyle Rush (http://www.flickr.com/photos/kylerush/4003100028/) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Posted by Rachel L. West

In addition to being the founder of The Political Social Worker blog, I am a consultant. My consulting practice offers advocacy and community outreach solutions to nonprofits, social good organizations, and private practitioners. Additionally, I offer career coaching to macro social work students and professionals.

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