State lawmakers included a measure creating a commission to study the issue of unaccompanied homeless youth in the Commonwealth in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget, and Gov. Deval Patrick approved the creation of the Commission by signing the FY 2013 budget into law on Sunday, July 8. This Commission will have the authority to make recommendations for programs and services to support homeless youth and MassEquality will have a seat on the Commission.
MassEquality Executive Director Kara Suffredini, Esq. issued the following statement in response:
“Up to 40 percent of homeless youth in Massachusetts are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). And the vast majority of youth in Massachusetts who are homeless and on their own without an adult or guardian—otherwise known as ‘unaccompanied homeless youth’—are LGBT. Most are homeless because they have been rejected by their families, or have run away due to abuse related to their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
“The rejection these LGBT youth experience doesn’t end at the door of their family home. There are few homeless shelters in Massachusetts set up to properly care for young people. Teens and young adults are forced to take shelter housed with adults, many of whom can be violent and unstable. These are not safe spaces for young people, especially LGBT youth who are often additionally victimized based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
“These young people face higher rates of malnutrition, victimization through physical and sexual assault, substance abuse, and mental health issues than their peers who live at home. They are more likely to drop out of school and engage in “survival sex” in exchange for shelter—which makes them more vulnerable to pregnancy and HIV infection and other sexually-transmitted diseases.
“MassEquality applauds the leadership of our partners in making this legislative effort a success, especially the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless. We commend lawmakers, particularly House Speaker Robert DeLeo, for recognizing the experiences of unaccompanied homeless young people in Massachusetts as a crisis requiring immediate attention and for creating this Commission to study and ultimately improve the services and support available to the Commonwealth’s homeless youth. We also appreciate the work of Representative James O’Day and Senators Katherine Clark and Harriette Chandler for championing this issue through the budget process.
“MassEquality will use its position on the Commission to include the unique voices of homeless LGBT youth in the broader discussion of the challenges facing our Commonwealth’s unaccompanied homeless youth population.”