Confronting Gay Homelessness

John Kerry introduces new legislation aimed at decreasing the numbers of LGBT homeless youth

As many as 1.6 million young people become homeless each year in the U.S., according to a report from the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. Of these young people, up to 40 percent are LGBT. And that’s why Sen. John Kerry has introduced the Reconnecting Youth to Prevent Homelessness Act, legislation that targets young people living on the streets.

“As a father, it’s a punch in the gut to imagine children living on the streets,” says Kerry, “but this year alone, one in 50 American kids will be homeless. There are common sense reforms we can implement to help make things better for LGBT youth.”

The legislation appeals to the Department of Health & Human Services to develop programs that may help would-be runaways before they ever leave home. The goal is to reach families and caretakers with new education programs in the next five years. These include “behavioral interventions” that identify LGBT youth who could be at risk.

The measure would also extend the age of children who may remain in foster care until they reach 21. These young people would be able to take advantage of training programs that help them cope with independence and learn how to navigate money management and Social Security benefits.

It also makes improvements to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, such as enhancing efforts to connect at-risk youth and their families with training and housing resources. It extends the time in which young parents qualify for these benefits.

The legislation is expected to be introduced in the House in the next few weeks after gaining support from 39 major LGBT organizations like PFLAG, GLSEN and the National Center for Transgender Equality.