By: Allison Wright
Youth workers from Youth on Fire and Boston GLASS waited
patiently in the back of the hearing room fanning themselves in an
attempt to deal with the almost unbearable heat. Current and formerly
homeless LGBTQ youth I’ve worked with at BAGLY or spoken with during my many trips to Boston GLASS slowly began to creep their way through the masses.
We were all there for the same reason – to show our support for “An Act
Providing Housing and Supportive Services for Unaccompanied Homeless
“An Act Providing Housing and Supportive Services for Unaccompanied
Homeless Youth” is a key step to improving housing and residential
stability, reducing the risk of harm and improving educational, physical
and mental health outcomes for unaccompanied homeless youth.
With recent reports suggesting that up to 40% of unaccompanied homeless youth in the United States identify as LGBT, this bill will particularly benefit unaccompanied homeless LGBTQ youth in Massachusetts.
The lack of youth-specific resources in Massachusetts is alarming. As
one youth testified, “there is only 1 shower for 16 guests” at Bridge
Over Troubled Waters – one of the few youth specific shelters in
Youth, particularly LGBTQ youth, avoid adult shelters due to fear of
violence, harassment, and lack competency on LGBTQ issues. As a result,
youth opt to sleep on the street and resort to survival crimes, exposing
them to increased violence, incarceration, and HIV transmission.
Homelessness has also been linked to school drop-out rates. The
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education estimates that nearly
6,000 high school students are experiencing homelessness and are out on
The need for greater resources for LGBTQ youth in the out-of-home care
setting as well as stronger anti-bullying laws for LGBTQ students are
two of the many priorities for GLAD’s Youth Initiative Project.
On May 30, Senior Staff Attorney and leader of GLAD’s Youth Initiative,
Vickie Henry, testified in support of “An Act Relative to Bullying in
Schools.” The proposed legislation would make much needed improvements
to the state’s anti-bullying law by adding important provisions for
enumerating protected classes - including LGBTQ students; for tracking
and reporting bullying behavior; and for conducting a student school
Bullying harms academic performance and, sometimes, leads to the ending
of a young life. Through GLAD’s extensive outreach in the LGBTQ and HIV
positive youth community, we have heard the stories of numerous
students who report being bullied because of their sexual orientation,
gender identity, and/or gender expression.
GLAD joins in supporting the passage of “An Act Providing Housing and
Support Services for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth” and “An Act Relative
to Bullying in Schools.” Both bills will greatly improve the everyday
lives our next generation.