BY MATT TRACY
Community News Group
Governor Andrew Cuomo commemorated National Coming Out Day on October 11 by signing a bill passed by the State Legislature earlier this year mandating that organizations working with homeless youth undergo LGBTQ competency training.
The bill, led in the lower chamber by Brooklyn Assemblymember Felix W. Ortiz and in the upper house by out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman, requires the training for every employee who works in programs or for organizations that provide care to runaway or homeless youth. The training will especially focus on addressing peer-to-peer homophobia and transphobia in shelters, offering support to families of queer youth, and using correct pronouns.
“It’s National Coming Out Day, which is an appropriate time to take action to help our homeless LGBTQ youth,” Hoylman said in a written statement. “With this new law, providers of runaway and homeless youth services across the state will finally have the tools they need to serve LGBTQ kids with the dignity and compassion they deserve.”
Cuomo called the legislation “common sense,” explaining that the state needs to ensure adults who care for young people are equipped with the tools and information necessary to help LGBTQ youth.
“It is undeniable that a disproportionate number of LGBT kids end up in the care of homeless organizations because their families refused to accept them for who they are,” the governor said. “I’m especially proud to sign this measure into law on National Coming Out Day and once again demonstrate to the LGBT community that New York State has their back.”
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LGBTQ people represent disproportionately high percentages of the homeless youth population. A Center for American Progress study indicated that the percentage of homeless youth who identify as LGBTQ ranges from 20 percent to 40 percent. In total, there is an estimated 320,000 to 400,000 LGBTQ youth who face homelessness each year.
Key resources for LGBTQ youth in New York City include New Alternatives, which provides a range of services for LGBTQ youth to help them transition into stable adult lives, and Trinity Place Shelter, which allows LGBTQ youth and young adults to stay for up to 18 months. The Ali Forney Center, based in the city, is the oldest and largest organization providing LGBTQ homeless youth with housing and related services to help prepare them for independent living. A Bronx-based shelter known as Marsha’s House accepts applicants up to age 30 and is uniquely geared to serve LGBTQ young adults who have aged out of the youth shelter system.