My day at the office typically begins and ends with the sounds of laughter and tears. That’s generally what I hear when I walk through the front doors of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Youth Center, in the heart of Hollywood. What I always see is a line of LGBT young people who are hungry not just for food, but for a place to sleep and for the resources to build a better life. That line isn’t getting any shorter.
LGBT people are no strangers to poverty and unstable housing. According to a 2012 study by the Williams Institute, up to 40% of the youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBT. In another study by the Williams Institute (2013), it was found that lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people, particularly LGB people of color, were more likely to be vulnerable to poverty.
But homelessness is more than a statistic. Homelessness is the growing number of tents scattered throughout the city; it’s the person at the end of the 101 freeway off-ramp asking for food; it’s the hundreds of LGBT youth and seniors who come through our doors every day. Alarmingly, homelessness has become a norm in Los Angeles County, but we can all be part of the solution by voting “Yes” on Measure H on Tuesday, March 7.
The City of Los Angeles recently took a tremendous steps to address the problem of homelessness through the Prop. HHH bond, approved by voters last November. It helps fund housing for those experiencing chronic homelessness, but the issue cannot be solved by the city alone. Homelessness requires a multi-pronged approach to meaningfully impact the lives of people living on the streets of Los Angeles County.
Measure H, also known as the “Los Angeles County Plan to Prevent and Combat Homelessness,” offers a real solution to end homelessness. It generates funds through a quarter-cent sales tax that can only be used for homeless services and housing, creating a 10-year sustainable funding stream to address the inadequate housing and services that have been desperately needed for more than decade. Most importantly, it’s estimated to end homelessness for 45,000 families and individuals throughout Los Angeles County.
Though I’ve seen how LGBT young people can be resilient after experiencing family rejection and discrimination in school, resiliency is rarely enough. Measure H gives me hope that eventually I won’t see a line in front of our youth center; that the Center programs experiencing the greatest demand from youth will be our mentorship and leadership development programs; and that eventually the only sounds I hear when I walk through the doors in the morning are of laughter.
Simon Costello is Director of Children, Youth and Family Services at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.