Redlands, CA (PressExposure) August 10, 2014 -- You see them walking down the street day and night, rummaging through trash cans, begging for spare change, dirty, hungry and alone. Homeless LGBT+ youth are in nearly every town, city and community in this nation. Most of these children are on the streets, estranged from their families.
Annette Patterson, the mother of two gay young men, was alarmed when she began researching homeless LGBT+ youth in Southern California in January 2013. Annette is the founder and CEO of Joshua Home: An LGBTQ Safe Haven the first permanent gender inclusive housing solution for homeless LGBTQ youth, opening this year in the Inland Empire.
"I can't believe the parents of these babies can put them out on the street, because of who they are. They have loved, nurtured, taught and found joy in their child, until they "come out", then they throw them away like a piece of trash", Annette says.
The staggering numbers of LGBT+ youth on the streets in America are climbing. Of the estimated 2,000,000 homeless youth, almost half identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and more. Because some ethnic groups, such as Hispanic, or those from strong religious backgrounds don't feel safe disclosing their "true identities", these children are not counted at all. Although some are not currently homeless, the reality looms over their heads, that if they tell their family they might be kicked out of their home.
Dr. H. Adam Ackley says, "One of the most heart-wrenching moments was when Christian college students filled my home on Thanksgiving because their biological parents would not welcome them at their own family table in their own home -- simply because of their orientation (not even behavior, this included young people who were chaste and single as well as those who have to choose between celebrating with their same-sex fiancÃ©e on the holidays OR with their disapproving parents. I also have spent hours on phone calls from crying celibate LGBTQ Christian students who can't bear their parents repeatedly screaming at them that they are going to Hell, "How could you do this to me?" Then kicking them out of the family merely for being in LOVE (not sexual which they hope to save for marriage) with a same sex beloved."
Parents need to know that it is okay for their son to have a boyfriend, or that their daughter likes boys and girls, or that their child is unsure about their sexuality. The only way we are going to reduce the number of homeless LGBT+ youth on the streets is to educate the parents before and after they kick the kids out. Ms. Patterson has been speaking with various organizations and individuals about teaching a course geared toward parents and others wanting to understand and stand by their LGBT+ child. The classes will begin early 2015 at community, faith-based and government facilities, in order to reach a larger population.
"I have been educating, encouraging and empowering parents with LGBT+ children in the home for almost two years now. I tell them to stop looking at the child, family, friends, their faith and community and take a look in the mirror. The first step is to decide to continue loving your child, as the gift from God they are. Embarrassment. That is the word every parent has used when thinking and talking about the affect of their child's orientation on their life", Annette continues.
Education is the key to ending LGBT+ youth homelessness in America. Educating parents, society, children, educators, and the organizations that serve homeless LGBT+ children, will help keep children in their homes. Too few homeless shelters are trained, experienced or sympathetic enough to address and support the specific challenges LGBT+ youth face when they show up at the door. As a result, most of these youth are sent back out to the street.
The Mission of Joshua Home is the end LGBTQ youth homelessness. Joshua Home was created for at-risk LGBTQ+ Youth who are homeless on the streets, in mainstream foster or group homes, sofa surfing or in unsafe home situations. Pioneered in 2013 by Founder and CEO, Annette Patterson, Joshua Home's goal is to make sure every homeless Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning young person ages 12 through 17, in the Inland Empire of southern California has a permanent place to call home.
Joshua Home: An LGBTQ Safe Haven is an overdue solution to a problem that has been pushed through the cracks in our society for far too long.
Parents around the country have begun speaking up and out for their LGBT+ youth, making it easier for other parents to embrace and love their own LGBT+ child, unconditionally. Annette believes that this open conversation coupled with education will help end LGBT+ youth homelessness and seriously reduce the number of children being kicked out of their homes because of who they are.
Joshua Home a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization is enlisting the support of the LGBT+ community and its allies asking them to join #TeamJoshuaHome to help raise awareness of the growing epidemic of homeless LGBT+ youth in America, to continue to educate parents and others, while being a part of the solution through their volunteer work with Joshua Home.