The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center was awarded a $13.3 million grant by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and said it is first federal grant of its kind to focus on LGBT youths.
The center received the grant, to be disbursed over five years, to develop a model foster services program, according to a statement obtained by The Advocate on Thursday. The center's grant is the only one specifically to support LGBTQ youths and the only one that did not go to a government agency or academic institution.
The program will be a collaborative effort led by the center with 19 other organizations and government agencies, including foster care agencies, researchers, Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and the Los Angeles County's departments of children and family services, mental health, probation, and juvenile court. The goal is to keep the youths who come to the center in school and to eventually place them in permanent homes where they won't be harassed, abused, or isolated for being gay.
"The public systems across the country that are charged with the care and well-being of children and adolescents have largely been unresponsive or slow to acknowledge the needs of LGBTQ youth, and in some cases even hostile," Darrel Cummings, the center's chief of staff who led the team that wrote the grant-writing effort, said in a statement. "As a result, these systems deliver misguided, uninformed, and ultimately second-class care that harms LGBTQ youth in their custody. All too often they're housed in isolation 'for their own safety,' blamed for being harassed because they're open about their sexual orientation or gender identity, or disciplined for engaging in age-appropriate conduct that would not be punishable were it between youth of different sexes. It's the system that's harming them and we've got to change that."
The center saw an influx of homeless or foster youth after the city's
Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services program shut its doors in
2008. The center currently runs a 24-bed transitional living program for homeless young people, ages 18-24. It also operates the Jeff Griffith Youth Center, which provides meals, emergency beds, clothing, counseling, and support services to the youths.