LGBT YOUTH IN AT­LANTA

What they want, what they need and who they are.

GA Voice - - Front Page - By PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS psaun­ders@the­gavoice.com

Mar­riage equal­ity seems to be the main— some would say only—LGBT is­sue that gets talked about lately through­out the com­mu­nity. But there’s a broader strug­gle go­ing on, and it’s af­fect­ing our most vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tion—our young.

We spoke to sev­eral LGBT groups as well as the youth they serve, or hope to serve in the near fu­ture, to find out what needs to be done, who is do­ing it and what our younger con­tin­gent re­ally cares about.

JUS­TUS AT­LANTA

www.jus­tusatl.org

Jus­tUs At­lanta is an en­tirely youth-led LGBTQQA or­ga­ni­za­tion that formed in April 2012. While ini­tially the group of­fered support groups, it is un­clear how ac­tive the group is now.

The GA Voice did not hear back from rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Jus­tUs At­lanta after send­ing in­ter­view re­quests; the last post on their Face­book page was on June 17.

Ac­cord­ing to an April 1 Face­book post, the group had raised $6,600 of a $20,000 goal set to open up its own space, a bench­mark the or­ga­ni­za­tion had ini­tially hoped to ac­com­plish within six months of form­ing.

Also, two Jus­tUs At­lanta lead­ers are no longer af­fil­i­ated with the group, Gabriel Hag­garay and Brit Prince. They have gone on to help start up the new LGBT youth group Real Youth At­lanta.

LOST-N-FOUND YOUTH

www.lost-n-found.org

Lost-N-Found Youth, founded in 2011, con­tin- ues to move for­ward with sev­eral projects in its mis­sion to help At­lanta’s home­less LGBT youth.

After open­ing a 13,000-square-foot con­sign­ment and thrift store last Novem­ber and then a drop-in cen­ter in Fe­bru­ary, the group set its sights on a third ma­jor goal: open­ing up a new fa­cil­ity in Mid­town next to Saint Mark United Methodist Church that will in­clude emer­gency shel­ter with 15 to 20 beds, tran­si­tional hous­ing with up to 20 beds, a new drop-in cen­ter and of­fice space for the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Lost-N-Found co-founder Rick West­brook says the or­ga­ni­za­tion has done ev­ery­thing it can to clean out the house. The porch and roof have been re­paired and new win­dows have been or­dered. Next up is elec­tri­cal, HVAC and plumb­ing, but Lost-N-Found can’t start that un­til it gets per­mits from the city, which West­brook says has been frus­trat­ing. It’s not a process they are un­fa­mil­iar with, though.

“The thrift store should have been open in a month and it took four,” West­brook says.

West­brook says he hopes the group gets the per­mit sit­u­a­tion re­solved and the in­te­rior work started within the next month.

He says the orig­i­nal goal of a Novem­ber open­ing will have to be pushed back to next spring.

In the mean­time, the num­ber of phone calls from home­less LGBT youth con­tin­ues to rise as Lost-N-Found gets closer to pro­vid­ing them with another re­source to have at their dis­posal.

GE­OR­GIA EQUAL­ITY

www.geor­giae­qual­ity.org

Ge­or­gia Equal­ity, the state’s LGBT ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion, has a num­ber of on­go­ing youth-cen­tered ini­tia­tives.

The group’s Safe Schools Cam­paign is a part­ner­ship with the Ge­or­gia Safe Schools Coali­tion to en­act anti-bul­ly­ing poli­cies through­out the state and is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of Ge­or­gia Equal­ity field or­ga­nizer Em El­liott.

“Due pri­mar­ily to Em’s work, we have been suc­cess­ful in get­ting 50 school dis­tricts around the state—in­clud­ing all of the metro At­lanta school dis­tricts—to in­clude enu­mer­a­tion in their poli­cies that ad­dress sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and gen­der iden­tity,” says Ge­or­gia Equal­ity Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Jeff Gra­ham.

El­liott also co­or­di­nates GSA Con­nect, the state’s net­work for gay-straight al­liances. The net­work cur­rently has 38 col­leges, 44 high schools and two mid­dle school GSAs since launch­ing in 2011.

The group has also part­nered with GLSEN and the Ad­vance­ment Project to ad­dress the dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­bers of youth of color, LGBTQ stu­dents and stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties who are pun­ished by teach­ers more of­ten and more harshly than their peers.

El­liott says that the youths she speaks to on an almost daily ba­sis are con­cerned about high lev­els of vi­o­lence and ha­rass­ment in school as well as the fear of be­ing outed. Ge­or­gia Equal­ity de­pends on stu­dent feed­back to shape its game plan, but it doesn’t get any eas­ier to hear story after

Real Youth At­lanta or­ga­niz­ers Cedrick Hay­ward, Mark DeLong and Brit Prince lead an Aug. 12 town­hall meet­ing. (photo by Pa­trick Saun­ders)

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