On winter nights, most have the luxury of curling up on couches in the warmth of a home, but just miles away, families and children are out on their own. Some, kicked out for coming out.
Gloria McCauley, who helps house some of those refugees with the help of her partner, said that many times, their homelessness is the result of family rejection because of homosexuality.
McCauley told 10TV’s Kristyn Hartman about Max.
“He came out to his family, and his father threw him out, threw him out through a plate glass window,” said McCauley, who also serves as the executive director of the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization. “As a parent, I don’t understand that. I don’t understand conditional love.”
A report tracking data from part of 2011 and 2012 suggests the problem is not going away.
According to the “Serving Our Youth” report by the Palette Fund, the True Colors Fund and the Williams Institute, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people make up about 40 percent of the clients that homeless youth agencies serve.
In months of searching, 10TV News could not find anyone in Columbus willing to share his or her private struggle.
In Cincinnati, a young man agreed to speak with 10TV News, because he said his family couldn’t view the story where they lived.
When 10TV News met Dustin, he was staying at the Lighthouse, a safe haven that tries to help homeless youth ages 18 to 24 find stability.
“Sometimes I feel hopeless, helpless, depressed,” Dustin said.
For years, Dustin said, he had a difficult time talking about his sexuality, though said he thought his family suspected it.
Dustin said his uncle “outed” him. Fights followed the disclosure that he is gay. Dustin said he takes responsibility for his fault in those fights.
“I’d apologize for all my actions, like being angry, yelling and screaming,” Dustin said.
But the young man said his family, including his mother, hurt him, too.
“She just looked at me different,” Dustin said. “She said being gay was wrong. My grandma wanted me to leave because of all the yelling and aggravation was going back and forth.”
Dustin honored his grandmother’s wishes, and said he felt he had to go his separate way from his family.
His told us his uncle shared parting words with him.
“He told me I was going to hell for being gay,” Dustin said. “I didn’t know how to process it all. I just walked out. I didn’t know what to think.”
McCauley said that Dustin’s story did not surprise her.
“I have heard that same story over and over the last 25 years, here in Columbus and around the state of Ohio,” McCauley said.
According to the “Serving Our Youth” survey, 60 percent of the responding facilities said that they worked primarily with homeless clients who were 18 or older – an age when some young people already are self-sufficient.
Tyra Singer said her clients at the Lighthouse in Cincinnati, with all the obstacles they have faced, are not ready to take care of themselves yet.
“Trying to incorporate, ‘Well, you need to suck it up and get a job,’” Singer said. “That’s hard to do when everything else is falling apart, your personal life is falling apart, so you can’t pull it together.”
McCauley, who has given youth security over the years, said there are few places out there like Lighthouse. She also said it is not uncommon for older homeless LGBT youth to choose the streets over general shelters.
“It’s not a safe place for LGBT youth – hate crimes, getting sexually assaulted,” McCauley said.
Amy Eldridge, the director of the Kaleidoscope Youth Center, located on North High Street, said many youth do not know about the resources available to them.
The Kaleidoscope Youth Center is one in Columbus, as well as the Huckleberry House, though they both have age caps.
Dustin said he planned to move to a shelter catering to a broader range of people, but according to a counselor he ultimately chose no place over that place.
She told 10TV News recently that she did not know where in Cincinnati Dustin was staying.
The news surprised Lighthouse Assistant Program Director Tyra Singer.
“Dustin doesn’t seem like he wanted to live on the streets,” Singer said.
10TV News had hoped to follow up with Dustin, but he did not respond to our requests to speak with him further.
According to his Facebook page, he had found a new place and was happy to get off the streets.
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