One of the largest gaps in services for Houston’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Intersex youth is the problem of homelessness. Providing a multitude of services to GLBTQI youth since 1987, Montrose Counseling Center’s HATCH program often is the first place youth turn when they have no place to go.
MCC Executive Director Ann J. Robison, PhD, says that the agency has no current plans to provide shelter or transitional housing in its scope of youth services. MCC’s youth programs include partnering with a licensed foster care agency, as well as other organizations and Child Protective Services to try to get GLBTQI homeless youth off the streets and into shelter, foster home or back home, so we do see the need on a regular basis and want to help convene other stakeholders. “We have become aware of several groups who are currently serving GLBTQI homeless youth, have expressed an interest in doing so, or are preparing to offer shelter or transitional housing,” says Robison.
By convening the summit in August, “our goal is to get all the parties together so that we can share what we do and learn from one another. Our hope is that we can initiate collaborations so that well-meaning groups aren’t duplicating services, reinventing services already in place, competing for scarce community resources, and that we maximize all our groups’ services to this underserved population,” she says.
“Youth who leave home are at a greater risk of becoming homeless, using street drugs, and becoming the victim of violence, not to mention putting themselves at higher risk for HIV should they find their only source of income to be survival sex,” says D.L. (Deb) Murphy, Youth Services Specialist at Montrose Counseling Center.
Right now, youth have very limited resources, especially if they are under the age of 18. That’s because they legally are not able to sign a contract unless a court has ordered that they are emancipated from their parents. They cannot apply for public assistance for health care, housing, food stamps or transportation. They cannot sign a lease. If they have been kicked out of their home, they can try to seek assistance from Child Protective Services (CPS) claiming abandonment, but that process takes time, and CPS already is overburdened with teen-age homelessness. As the youth approach the age of 18, they are harder and harder to place, which means they have only one other resource, Covenant House, a faith-based organization with a poor record of serving GLBTQI youth. Many youth choose to live on the street instead of conforming to the shelter’s strict guidelines.
“Sadly, many youth opt to live on the street because they actually think it’s safer than living at home,” says Murphy, who has worked with GLBTQI youth for more than ten years. The youth have told her horror stories about how they were treated by their own family members.
Murphy runs the HATCH program. On Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, HATCH provides a safe, affirming social environment for GLBTQI youth, ages 13-20, to become responsible citizens and positive contributors to society.