Audra McDonald Went “Homeless” for LGBTQ Youth

Audra McDonald and her husband, Will Swenson.

Audra McDonald and her husband, Will Swenson.

If we needed another reason to utterly adore Audra McDonald, the multiple Tony Award-winning actress who has been a staunch advocate for LGBTQ rights for years, we’ve got it: the outspoken performer took to the cold New York City streets overnight to raise awareness about the staggering amount of LGBTQ homeless teens.

McDonald "sleeping out" from her Twitter.

McDonald “sleeping out” from her Twitter.

McDonald, who, along with thousands of others, took part in a “sleep out” sponsored by Covenant House, a youth shelter “safe space” for teens. The singing actress is on the international board of directors for the organization, which serves over 2,000 homeless and “trafficked” youth every night. The “sleep out” raised over $1.8 million in New York alone.

McDonald’s story, which is documented in full on The Advocate, explains the reasons why she, along with others, went homeless for the night:

“Please understand — I was not under the delusion that one night on the street is anything like what homeless kids endure. The kids knew that too, and they got it. I’ve found that homeless youth are genuinely touched that anyone would take even one night out of their lives to care.

In fact, every young person I have met at Covenant House has been traumatized in some way. Nearly one in four have been sexually exploited, many as human trafficking victims. And up to 40 percent of homeless youth have been abandoned, rejected, or discriminated against due to their sexual orientation.

So our goal for the sleep out was not to pretend we were homeless, but to raise money that goes directly for food, clothing, shelter, medical attention, education, job training, and short and long-term housing for homeless kids.”

McDonald, who recently triumphed in the Broadway play Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, where she played the tormented Billie Holiday and broke a record by winning her sixth ever Tony Award, said she is reminded of Holiday’s song “God Bless the Child” when working with homeless youth (“Mama may have, papa may have /But God bless the child that’s got his own /That’s got his own”). She said, “It occurred to me that this gathering of so many diverse organizations working with homeless youth was really all about one thing … re-dedicating ourselves to making sure all young people have a chance to rise up in love, to embrace the great promise of their lives, to ‘get their own.’”

McDonald and her husband, actor Will Swenson, received PFLAG National’s Straight for Equality Award in 2012. You can follow her on Twitter at @audraequalitymc.