LGBT YOUTH IN ATLANTA
What they want, what they need and who they are.
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 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, 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, 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)