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Friday, September 17, 2021

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News + PoliticsOPINION: Queer homelessness, queer shame

OPINION: Queer homelessness, queer shame

When will the mainstream LGBT organizations declare war on poverty?

The group fortytonone.org estimates that as many as 40 percent of all homeless youth are LGBT
The group fortytonone.org estimates that as many as 40 percent of all homeless youth are LGBT

By Tommi Avicolli Mecca

JULY 17, 2105 — Once again, for the second time in a row, San Francisco’s biannual Point in Time Homeless Count reveals that 29 percent of those surveyed identify as LGBT.

It’s not surprising. Little is being done to address the poverty and homelessness that exists in the LGBT community, despite the fact that two homeless people have died on the streets of the Castro, the world’s most famous queer neighborhood. In both instances, people continued to walk past their dead bodies for hours after they passed on, as if they were invisible, which studies show the homeless truly are.

The outcry over one of those homeless deaths, a transgender woman who was well known in the Castro, subsided in less than the proverbial 15 minutes and resulted in no action on the part of the mainstream LGBT movement.

It’s not just a local problem. Two Williams Institute studies and a report from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Coalition on Homelessness show that poverty and homelessness in the LGBT community are, unfortunately, flourishing. In terms of homeless youth, a staggering 20-40 percent across the country report that they are queer.

While the LGBT community was pouring big bucks and endless resources into winning the right to walk down the aisle and say I Do, the poor and homeless have been all but left to fend for themselves in a society that treats them as pariahs and criminals, even here in San Francisco — where someone can be fined or arrested for merely sitting or sleeping on a sidewalk. Ironically, the 1970s version of that law was used against gay men in the Castro, prompting Harvey Milk to speak out against it. How soon the merchants, who overwhelmingly support the current sit/lie, forget.  

Fortunately, there are efforts to help queer homeless and poor folks in the city by the bay. The AIDS Housing Alliance routinely houses homeless people with HIV. Larkin Street Youth Services runs a hotel program (about 22 rooms) for homeless queer youth. Jazzie’s Place, a 24-bed LGBT shelter for LGBT homeless adults, and Marty’s Place, a Community Land Trust six-bedroom coop for low-income people with AIDS, recently opened in the Mission area last month. Open House, a 110-unit affordable housing complex, is being built for low-income LGBT seniors and will open next year.

While certainly helpful, these efforts are not enough. What’s really needed is a war on poverty and homelessness within the community. That means a commitment on the part of mainstream LGBT organizations to make this war number one on their “gay agenda.” Equality is about everyone in the community having a roof over their heads and the means to be self sufficient.

Despite what people are saying, the LGBT community hasn’t arrived because the Supremes recognize our right to marry. As the latest San Francisco homeless count indicates, we still have a very very long way to go.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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9 COMMENTS

  1. Prop C,A and K passed shall we, experience immediate change? Highly unlikely we must, protect “rent” controlled units problem dynamics. Global prospects: determine essentials affordability don’t trust yes, we voted concern when? Begin housing polices Ed and Scott, implosion of “class A office” towers essential going increase rentals.

  2. Yes, aware of discrimination USA” employment,housing and social acceptance personal
    denial not resolution. You pay taxes ask your local “LGBTQ” center to sponsor (forums)
    believe me LGBTQ equate political influence exaggerating. Majority living in poverty opposite fix incomes compared to new elite change metropolitan regions gentrified with ratio affluent. Sadly, affluent LGBTQ don’t care to share so many own realty Bay area care about social injustice not. Obligated where lobby from LGBTQ realtors whom could bring justice are blight and fight! About profits not preserving “LGBTQ” heritage ask David Geffen,Ellen, Peter Thiel,Earvine Johnson Jr (Magic Son) and Chris Hughes donate non- LGBTQ cause reiterate don’t wear label this fable. Not many LGBTQ society able, not wear defense stratification effecting respect LGBTQ mention technology firms. Apple Inc, Facebook and Paypal where ratio LGBTQ employee’s getting hire or inspired? Façade walking Pride Events actually destroying empowerment for some. We need lobby for jobs and housing companies located cities hold form mayor office. Diversity essential retaining strength LGBTQ society difference Sweden fall rights going be struggle never concede!

  3. No, Frobisher. There is no federal law protecting LGBT people from housing or employment discrimination. Various states do protect us, but others do not, and discrimination in housing and employment continues legally in those states.

  4. My attempt to solve a problem by seeking more information does not negate the fact that our laws and culture favor classes at the expense of fairness to other classes of people.

  5. One of the more insidious ways that identity politics distract and divide is that it takes one issue and tries to make it into another issue. So we start out talking about, say, housing and then someone with a parallel agenda chimes in that a greater percentage of gays (insert your own stereotype) suffers from homelessness, so let’s make this really about gays.

    Or a discussion about crime or drugs gets diverted to a discussion about young urban black males.

    Education? But wait, Hispanics under-perform at school.

    And so on. For the identity politician, there are no issues. There are just favored classes of people. And of course other classes of people (whites, straights, males, techies, landlords) who then have to play the role of the bad guy.

  6. Tim……..Why the need to invoke war when discussing poverty and homelessness. We’ve had a “war on drugs” going on in this country since the 80s and that war has been very expensive yet, it has resolved nothing.

  7. It would be helpful to know the ‘leading’ underlying issues that creates the LGBT homeless population in San Francisco.

    Is it that some prefer to sleep on the streets here than live in their homophobic hometowns? If so, money spent on ENDA and same-sex marriage indeed helps – at a macro level, but doesn’t alleviate the continuing suffering by individuals.

    Is it related to dire poverty? Addiction? Each underlying cause has its own solutions.

    Looking at ‘the homeless’ only through the lens of real or perceived demographic group doesn’t help us to solve the problem as it misses the underlying causes. I guess as a way to raise funds and awareness it is apt.

  8. I think the key to reducing LGBT youth homelessness in San Francisco lies in nationwide legislation, not so much SF centered efforts. We need to make LGBT discrimination in employment and housing illegal in every state. We need to get every state or the federal government to protect LGBT people, particularly youth, from bullying and hate crimes, by first criminalizing those hate-inspired acts. Creating an atmosphere of acceptance in every town would help families, schools, and communities support their gay/transgendered children. More acceptance elsewhere translates into fewer teen runaways on big city sidewalks, particularly accepting cities like San Francisco that from a distance shine like beacons to youth in difficult situations.

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