It’s an election year and there’s a lot of talk about what our nation’s priorities need to be for the next four to eight years. What we have to make sure is not forgotten is the epidemic of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth homelessness. Up to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT, yet fewer than 7 percent of kids nationwide are LGBT. That discrepancy is outrageous, and it’s something we can’t ignore. That’s why, on April 27, 2016, we will raise our voices for #40toNoneDay: a national day organized by the True Colors Fund to raise public awareness about LGBT youth homelessness.
While family rejection is the most commonly cited reason for LGBT youth homelessness, it’s just one piece of the puzzle — a very big puzzle. We need to make sure we’re seeing the whole picture.
People often think that because they don’t work at a homeless shelter, they don’t have a role to play. The reality is: everyone can make a difference! Think of it this way: Kids experiencing homelessness come into contact with more than just the good folks working at shelters. They also go to coffee shops and libraries. They ride the bus. They’re on the Internet. You may interact with them on a regular basis without even realizing it. We all need to put our heads together to make sure these young people can get support wherever they go — and be themselves when they get there.
Right now people all across America are making a difference. A 24-hour diner owner in North Carolina is giving kids a place to stay when they have nowhere else to go. A library in Indiana is letting kids without a permanent address use computers to access lifesaving resources. In Minnesota police officers are using an app developed by the community to help kids find shelters with available beds. There are many more possibilities that have yet to be explored. That’s why we need to keep the conversation going.
Youth are our future, but they’re also our present. We need to make these kids our priority now. If we don’t, where will they be in five, 10, 20 years? Where will our country be? Even if we all agree that ending LGBT youth homelessness needs to be a priority, how can we rise above the noise and make our message heard? Our voices are stronger when we say something together. Last year, #40toNoneDay reached more than 17 million people. How many more can we reach this year?
CYNDI LAUPER is a Tony-, Emmy-, and Grammy-winning writer, actor, and musician. She is also the cofounder of the True Colors Fund, which combats LGBT youth homelessness.