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LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness at disproportionately high rates

LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness at disproportionately high rates (WKRC)
LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness at disproportionately high rates (WKRC)
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MOUNT AUBURN, Ohio (WKRC) - Wednesday is the last day of Pride Month, a time to celebrate and recognize those in the LGBTQ+ community, and there a problem facing many young people in that community: homelessness.

The University of Chicago reported that LGBTQ+ youth make up as much as 40% of the homeless youth population.

In late January, Venus Hernandez boarded a plane, snapped a selfie, and left everything she knew and once loved behind in Phoenix, Arizona.

"I realized that I couldn’t live with these people if they couldn’t accept me," she said.

The 19-year-old identifies as a transgender woman.

She now stays at a youth homeless shelter in Mt. Auburn.

Hernandez said an Instagram post unintentionally outed her to her mother back in high school.

"Because my mom, you know, the next morning when she found out, she scolded me and said that’s not who I thought I was and that I’ll always be my former self to them, and so I kind of felt heartbroken by that fact," said Hernandez.

The University of Chicago's study found that LGBTQ+ young people are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than non-LGBTQ+ youth.

Bonita Campbell says, on any given day, about 40% of those staying in the Lighthouse Youth Shelter where she works identify as LGBTQ+.

When asked why she thought that was, Campbell said, "Because of our society, because families really struggle to accept their young people as LGBTQ+.

For that reason, Lighthouse is very intentional about creating an environment that is welcoming to all.

"You come to Lighthouse as a young person who’s LGBTQ+, you see it on every door: 'You’re welcome here.' So you walk up to the door and you say, “Oh, OK, great, this is for me,'” said Campbell.

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"The first night I got here, I think I cried myself to sleep because I’m finally being accepted for who I was. I’m finally being referred to by the right name and everything," said Hernandez. "There’s just nobody who I grew up with that accepted me, and it really took me a long time just to find people who loved and accepted me for who I was, and are more than willing to just hang out with me and just be my friend."

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