Carver, a former Pride Foundation Scholar and an invaluable member of Spokane’s Leadership Action Team, went through many difficult years as a queer youth. After growing up in an abusive household and then being placed in the foster care system, Carver became homeless at the age of sixteen. Working three jobs to get through high school, Carver “felt hopeless, alone, and like no one listened.”
Unfortunately, Carver’s story is a common one that is heard throughout the LGBTQ community. Approximately 40% of homeless youth in the United States identify as LGBTQ. Too many queer youth find themselves with nowhere to turn due to a lack of resources and support.
That is why Pride Foundation is working to address this critical issue in our community. In 2013, we established the Homeless LGBTQ Youth Initiative with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Through this Initiative, we have invested a total of $210,000 in three organizations working with homeless LGBTQ youth.
We are excited to announce that thanks to generous funding from Funders for LGBTQ Issues, we are able to expand this important work. Funders for LGBTQ Issues—a charitable organization that is devoted to increasing the funding for LGBTQ communities and philanthropic foundations to promote equality and improve the well-being of LGBTQ people—recently awarded their annual FLGBTQI + ADAM Queer Youth Initiative grant to Pride Foundation!
The grant goes to foundations that specifically work to support LGBTQ youth and include youth in their grant-making process. This grant will enable us to greatly expand our work with homeless LGBTQ youth, with a focus on Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and rural Oregon.
Parents of LGBTQ youth may be well meaning in trying to direct their children to more “gender-appropriate” activities in order to avoid harassment, but this leads to many youth feeling rejected by their families. According to a study done by the Child Welfare Information Gateway, up to 56% of LGBTQ youth in the foster care system spent time homeless because they felt safer on the streets than they did at their homes.
The funding from Funders for LGBTQ Issues will allow us to increase our support for collaborations between organizations that provide LGBTQ youth meaningful support systems when they can’t return to their original families. For youth like Carver, access to these types of support systems and resources can be a critical turning point.
Carver was able to tap into community resources for emotional support, including the Odyssey Youth Center in Spokane—one of the organizations Pride Foundation has invested in through our Homeless LGBTQ Youth Initiative.
Carver graduated from high school in 2003 and, with support from a Pride Foundation Scholarship, was able to go to college and continue on to get a Masters in Social Work, with the hopes of giving back to the community and working with at-risk youth.
The issue of queer homeless youth is especially relevant in the Northwest. Many of the rural areas in our region have little to no resources for LGBTQ people, including no Gay Straight Alliances within schools in some areas. There is a significant disparity between the regions with climates of acceptance and statewide legal protections (Washington and Oregon), and those with very few legal protections, if any, for LGBTQ people and families (Alaska, Idaho, and Montana). Unfortunately many LGBTQ people in these more rural areas face isolation and experience fear from within their communities.
That is why Pride Foundation is partnering with community organizations that work to address the root causes of systemic discrimination and inequality in these regions—so people like Carver can achieve their full potential.
Pride Foundation would like to thank Funders for LGBTQ Issues for their generous support. It is our mission to support the LGBTQ community throughout the region, and we are very grateful to have received this grant so we can continue to address the needs of queer homeless youth in the Northwest.
Kira Deshler is Pride Foundation’s Communications Intern. Email Kira.