LGBT Youth

Agencies in Action Against Human Trafficking: Bill Wilson Center

During National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we’re highlighting agencies and programs doing exceptional work to combat human trafficking and serve victims-survivors. Today’s blog features information about Bill Wilson Center in Santa Clara, California, an NSPN member and licensed Safe Place agency. This post was written by agency staff:

Bill Wilson Center (BWC) is active on many levels to address human trafficking, especially with CSEC and TAY youth. As a direct service provider, we are the designated youth shelter (12-17 yrs.) for police to drop off youth they picked up who are victims of trafficking. Our county has been very active in developing and implementing policy that no youth under the age of 18 yrs. is cited for sex trafficking, but is considered a victim and will not be sent to juvenile hall by default. Once identified, survivors are immediately offered the services of a sexual assault advocate, with whom BWC collaborates to conduct needs assessments, safety plans and permanent placements for youth. BWC is active on local CSEC and Safety Net committees and in developing protocols within our county to respond to victims of human trafficking. BWC has both a Drop In Center and LGBTQ Drop In Center that provide services to street youth including trafficking survivors and offers housing programs and employment, career, and education opportunities through case management, outreach, training programs and linkages to community partners. BWC staff advocate at political forums and present at local conferences for education to the public on human trafficking. Our approach is client centered and trauma informed.

Assessment and intake tools used across the agency include soft questions to identify trafficking survivors. Once identified, services offered include a sexual assault advocate, substance abuse treatment, mental health and health care, safety plans, housing, and other supports. We are currently waiting for a training date from West Coast Children’s Clinic to use their CSE-IT assessment and screening tool which will become a part of agency protocol.

BWC ensures that culturally competent practice is utilized across programs and across the different populations we serve. We have policies and procedures in place including an LGBTQ program that offers a safe, kind and accepting environment to create rapport and develop relationships with survivors as support is offered. Our staff is diversified to reflect the demographics of our county and the clients we serve. As a nationally accredited agency through Council on Accreditation, we have written policies and procedures outlining our culturally competent practices. Our staff receive on-going training in working with survivors.

We have developed a vision for a program with a unique approach to meet the needs of survivors that has yet to be funded. In collaboration with another agency whose staff is certified as sexual assault advocates, we propose the development of a receiving center located in a beautiful Victorian home specific for CSEC-identified youth. The house is warm and inviting and provides an atmosphere that is both private and conducive to one to one counseling, assessment and advocacy. The protocol we envision is one in which police drop a youth off at this home, where they are met by a trained, culturally competent staff who immediately connect the youth with a sexual assault advocate. There are three phases of treatment: 1) Crisis Intervention; 2) Stabilization; and 3) Long Term Support and Follow up. This project is a collaboration between law enforcement, BWC and another local agency. Our hope is that this vision is replicable on a larger scale.  Although it has not yet been funded, the philosophy and protocols are being implemented through the BWC emergency shelter for homeless and runaway youth.

To learn more about BWC, please visit: http://www.billwilsoncenter.org/.

Is your agency working to combat human trafficking and meet the needs of survivors? Click here to share how your agency is working to end human trafficking: https://nspn.memberclicks.net/index.php?option=com_mc&view=mc&mcid=form_230456

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Avoiding Sparks: On the Road to Independence

By: April Carthorn, RHYTTAC General Specialist, National Safe Place Network

Homelessness is not a choice. Too often a young person’s decision to leave home is the healthiest (and only) option available to them. Some have no choice as they are forced from their homes at the hands of their guardians. Many flee because of issues such as family conflict, sexual orientation, poverty, abuse and neglect, while others may become entangled in substance abuse, gangs, and addiction problems.

Once a young person is homeless, it is very difficult to transition out. Age restrictions prevent many youth from accessing housing / shelters thus making it hard for them to connect with services to help end their homelessness. Transitioning youth also face barriers when trying to get their own housing. Paying rent and bills is virtually impossible with a part-time minimum wage job and many landlords will not rent to youth. Therefore, many youth are forced to remain hidden or move to the streets.

Without proper housing, food, and support systems, the health of a youth experiencing homelessness is at risk. Homeless youth have higher rates of HIV and other STIs and face a greater risk for developing anxiety and depression as compared to housed youth. It is difficult to grow into a healthy adult when you’re unhealthy, poorly nourished, and stressed.

While this paints a bleak picture, we can prevent youth homelessness by making sure young people know where to turn when their home is not safe. Most youth at risk of being homeless leave difficult home situations or age out of foster care to find themselves without a safe sanctuary, something we all need and appreciate. Everyone likes to come home and close the door behind them and feel safe. Many at-risk youth and young adults do not have this opportunity.

While most youth are resilient and want to move forward, there are a number of barriers for someone who is unprepared to be independent. Most youth who have aged out of care or have had to leave home lack experience in independence and therefore need a helping hand up. Searching for safe accommodations can be complicated, stressful, and hopeless if the youth / young adult is suffering from mental health concerns such as depression, stress disorders, substance abuse, and a history of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse.

What You Can Do To Help Avoid the Sparks:

Many youth / young adults ages 18-24 tend to take increased risk to figure out which career, educational, and financial path they want to pursue. Being a supportive ally can help foster a positive transition into adulthood and provide young people a chance to explore opportunities, develop financial independence, and create healthy, lifelong relationships.

  • Empower youth to make decisions. Youth / young adults have often been left out of critical decisions made about their lives. It is important to allow the young person take charge of his or her own future while you listen, help guide, and support. During daily interactions, provide youth with frequent opportunities to make decisions and to learn from consequences, both positive and negative.
  • Communicate high expectations. Far too often, youth / young adults have heard more about their limitations than about what they can achieve. Send positive messages about future possibilities. Offer forward-looking comments into everyday conversation. For example, use phrases such as “when you go on to college…” or “when you start your own business…” as opposed to phrases like “if you go to college.”
  • Start early. Find ways to introduce important concepts to younger youth. For example, talk with a pre-teens about the value of education and saving for long-term goals.
  • Decrease control and increase youth responsibilities gradually. While allowing youth to make choices, be clear about boundaries. Involve youth in setting rules and establishing appropriate consequences related to their behavior. Allow young people to learn and practice adult life skills with your support.
  • Help to identify at least one reliable, caring adult in a young person’s life who can serve as a stable, ongoing connection and can provide support pre-and-post-transition into adulthood.
  • Encourage the development of positive peer support networks through participation in constructive group activities with others who share similar likes and experiences.
  • Be an effective coach who listens, advises, and provides youth / young adults with opportunities to learn and practice new skills.  Do not shoot down their ideas.
  • Advocate for youth rights as they relate to employment, housing, education, medical and mental health care, court proceedings, and social needs.
  • Remind young people of their responsibilities related to self commitment, citizenship, character, and fairness and generosity toward others.
  • Recognize successes and celebrate ALL achievements and milestones on the path to adulthood.

Pride Isn’t an End. It’s a Beginning.

By: Jama Shelton, LMSW, PhD, Deputy Executive Director for True Colors Fund

Pride Month is not only an opportunity for homeless youth programs to celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) young people with whom they work, it’s also a time for youth-serving agencies to come out as visible allies of all young people. Sometimes youth serving organizations may not celebrate Pride Month if they think it isn’t relevant to the youth within their programs. Even if you aren’t aware of any LGBT identified youth (or youth who may be questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity) within your programs, chances are, they’re there! In fact, 99% of the service providers we surveyed for our Serving Our Youth Report said they work with LGBT youth in their homeless youth programs. Less than one percent reported not working with LGBT youth. Pride Month is a perfect opportunity to let these young people know that you see them, stand with them, and support them.

Pride Month is a time to be, well… proud! It’s a time to celebrate the accomplishments of LGBT people and communities. And we’ve had no lack of accomplishments lately! Laverne Cox continues to excel at her craft, while also raising awareness about the unjust treatment of transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, in our country. Over the past few months, Caitlyn Jenner’s decision to live as her true self has made headlines worldwide, and introduced the topic of transgender identity to a whole new audience. Let us be proud of and celebrate these incredible women!

Let us also recognize that many LGBT young people struggle to survive in families and communities that are not yet able to accept or celebrate them. According to service providers we surveyed, LGBT youth continue to be overrepresented within the population of youth experiencing homelessness, and identity-based family rejection continues to be the primary reason for their homelessness. While Laverne and Caitlyn are making their ways into households all over the world via mainstream media, transgender youth are being forced out of their homes and face great difficulty finding adequate support once on the street.

While updating our report this year, we asked service providers about their experiences working with transgender youth separately from their experiences with cisgender LGB youth in order to better understand how to support transgender youth. Here are some of the key findings from the report:

  • Organizational staff report average increases in the proportion of LGBT youth they serve. This change is higher for transgender youth.
  • Service providers were more likely to report that transgender youth experience homelessness for longer periods of time than cisgender LGB youth.
  • Transgender youth were estimated to have experienced bullying, family rejection, and physical and sexual abuse at higher rates than their LGB counterparts.
  • The number one need for LGBT youth experiencing homelessness, as identified by providers, was housing. Providers also identified transition-related support as a critical need for transgender youth. Transition-related supports include access to legal support, name/gender marker change, access to healthcare specific to transgender youth, access to hormones, and emotional support.

So why am I bringing this up during Pride Month, a time when celebrations of LGBT identity abound? Because not all LGBT community members are accepted, much less celebrated, in their families and in their communities. This June, I challenge you not only to celebrate, but also to educate within your organizations and communities. Increasing visibility is important, but let’s not stop there. It’s an important first step in creating a safe and inclusive society, but when Pride Month is over and the parades have ended, what will have changed for the LGBT youth experiencing homelessness in your community?

This June, I am proud to work alongside many of you in communities around the country as you commit to making your programs and services safe and affirming for all youth. I encourage you to celebrate the LGBT youth you serve not only during the month of June, but all year. If you’d like suggestions on how to do that, contact us at the True Colors Fund. We’re happy to help!

True Colors Fund, National Safe Place Network NSPNsights Blog, Pride Month 2015

True Colors Fund, National Safe Place Network NSPNsights Blog, Pride Month 2015

True Colors Fund, National Safe Place Network NSPNsights Blog, Pride Month 2015

True Colors Fund, National Safe Place Network NSPNsights Blog, Pride Month 2015

True Colors Fund, National Safe Place Network NSPNsights Blog, Pride Month 2015

True Colors Fund, National Safe Place Network NSPNsights Blog, Pride Month 2015

Helpful Resource from Polaris Project

Polaris Project, an organization leading the global fight to end modern slavery and restore freedom to survivors, posted an article on their website intended to help enhance services provided for LGBTQ human trafficking victims.

Breaking Barriers: Improving Services for LGBTQ Human Trafficking Victims

Excerpt: “Youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning (LGBTQ) may be disproportionately affected by human trafficking. They face higher rates of discrimination and homelessness, making them especially vulnerable to traffickers.”

Read the full article here: http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/resources/breaking-barriers-lgbtq-services

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NSPN Supports #40toNoneDay – Here’s Why You Should, Too

It’s a statistic that may shock you, but that doesn’t make it any less true: Approximately 40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), while about 7% of the general youth population does the same. The discrepancy is outrageous. And it’s impossible to ignore.

On Wednesday, April 29, 2015 NSPN will join people across the country – including national advocacy organizations, elected officials, service providers, celebrities, LGBT youth, and community members – to support the first ever #40toNoneDay.

#40toNoneDay is national awareness day for everyone who cares about ending LGBT youth homelessness. While there are many factors that contribute to LGBT youth homelessness, identity-based family rejection is the most commonly cited reason. The ultimate goal is to reduce the disproportionate percentage from 40% to none. We need your help!

People often think that, because they don’t work at a shelter or service provider, they don’t have a role to play in the effort to end LGBT youth homelessness. The reality is: Everyone can make a difference! LGBT youth experiencing homelessness interact with more than just people working at shelters. They go to coffee shops and libraries, ride public transportation, use the internet. To put it simply: they live life! We all share the same world and you may interact with these youth on a regular basis without even knowing it!

NSPN is honored to support #40toNoneDay, but we cannot do this alone. All of us have the ability to make a positive impact in the movement to end LGBT youth homelessness. The opportunity is yours. Will you take it?

Get involved at www.40toNoneDay.org.

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