D.C. councilwoman wants count of homeless LGBT youth

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Photo - D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh (Examiner file photo)
D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Alan Blinder

The District would conduct a census of its homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth every five years, under a plan the D.C. Council will consider Monday.

"It's a very large problem that we're only beginning to understand the scope of," said Eddy Ameen of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community. "Funding follows numbers and demonstration of a problem."

Studies show that up to 40 percent of homeless youth nationwide might identify as LGBT, pushed out of their homes in many instances by angry or dismissive parents.

With the District's population of homeless youth estimated at as high as 6,000, advocates say D.C. could have as many as 2,400 LGBT homeless youth. But officials say that even that figure could be low because of the intrinsic challenges that come with counting the homeless.

Along with the population study, the measure would also intensify the District's efforts to serve LGBT youth by expanding the number of beds and units that are devoted to them in the city's homeless shelters.

The bill would also require employees who work with homeless youth to receive "cultural competency training."SClBCity officials could not immediately estimate the costs associated with the proposal, but Ameen said the plan is vital, especially in a city that has long been known as one of the nation's most gay-friendly municipalities.

"We have uncoordinated efforts to provide care for LGBT homeless youth," Ameen said. "The capacity has never been there."

The District has a single transitional-living facility for gay youth, but it has only eight beds, little turnover and, according to Ameen, "a perpetual waiting list."

Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh, who authored the proposal that is pending before lawmakers, said the near-total absence of housing was part of what prompted her concern.

"They seem to need some identifiable special help [in arranging safe shelter]," said Cheh, who added that she also hoped her bill would bring attention to an issue that has drawn little notice.

Lawmakers will have to finish their review of Cheh's proposal quickly if it is to become law because any legislation that remains unapproved by the end of the year will die.

Cheh's bill still faces three votes, the first two of which must take place by Dec. 4.SClB

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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