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Homeless LGBT teens in Birmingham need assistance

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As part of their LGBTQ/Racial Justice series, Greater Birmingham Ministries showed the documentary Finding Home last night. While the film focused on LGBT homelessness in other communities, the conversation afterward quickly shifted to homeless youth in the Birmingham area.

A Point-in-Time census by One Roof from a 10 day period in January 2011 showed 36 unsheltered and 13 sheltered homeless youth (under 18) in the Jefferson, Shelby and St. Clair county area. This could translate into quite a number over a year’s period.

A national estimate of 40% of homeless adolescents being LGBT seems to hold true for our area as well, according to those who were present and familiar with the situation.

LGBT youth who are homeless are often in that situation because of the religious beliefs of their parents.

“You don’t throw your kid away. But sometimes people because of the religious dogmas, that they believe, they feel, that their dogma is more important than their children,” said Cyndi Lauper in the video.

Not all homeless LGBT teens are booted out of their homes, however. Some leave on their own because of lack of support and/or denial of allowance to attend LGBT events and such. Regardless, on the street is not a place for an at risk teenager.

In Birmingham there is not an overnight shelter for homeless youth. Susan Johnston of Project Hope, which operates a day shelter for teens, is looking forward to the day when they can provide overnight housing, which would provide more stability and offer opportunity for the residents to develop life skills necessary for leading a productive life in their future.

An article in the Birmingham News in January 2011 looked at the problem of homeless teens in Birmingham.

Project Hope can be contacted by phone, at 205-252-HOPE.

And the chasm that often develops between LGBT kids and their parents can be bridged. One resource is Parents, Families and Friends of Lesians and Gays, and Patty Rudolph with PFLAG Birmingham was there to let people know about the organization.

“Everybody can change. Anybody that’s out there that has any kind of heart, we can change their mind,” said Edward Plata (in the video), who underwent a reunification program after being separated from his gay son E.J.

Several months ago Greater Birmingham Ministries showed the video Through My Eyes as part of this series. Through My Eyes looks at the role of young Christians in the LGBT debate. The film will be shown again on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 6:30 at Discovery United Methodist Church in Hoover, and all are welcome.

Acceptance by parents and understanding the issue through the eyes of teens is important in solving the problem. Until parents learn to love their children in spite of what they think along faith lines, the problem of homeless youth will continue.

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