Local emergency housing program fills resource gap for LGBT youth
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Time Out Youth’s Host Home Program has been benefitting LGBT young people in Charlotte for more than 20 years. Since its founding in 1991, Time Out Youth (TOY) has grown into a pillar of the Queen City’s LGBT community, offering a safe space, discussion groups, social events, and even emergency assistance.
The Host Home Program assists LGBT young adults, age 18-21, that have been displaced from their homes. TOY Director of Youth Services Sarah Alwran discussed the program with qnotes.
“We do an intake — find out what they need immediately, what resources do they have, what kind of support do they have available and how can we either increase those resources or give them the resources that they need. And, on top of that, we will find a housing match,” Alwran said.
The program does have strict requirements for the youth, who agree to a background check and to remain drug-free.
“They have to be actively seeking employment, employed, or in school or trying to get into school. They have goals; we do an action plan with them,” Alwran told qnotes. “It’s pretty intensive, consistent case management.”
Estimates on LGBT youth homelessness vary from as low as 20 percent to as high as 40 percent, according to studies from the National Alliance to End Homelessness and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Youth in Charlotte are not immune to housing challenges. Last year, TOY reported 419 percent increase in the number of youth utilizing their emergency housing program. For many youth, traditional homelessness resources are not an option.
“It makes shelters very unsafe for them, especially for our trans youth whose gender markers are not changed,” Alwran said. “They are not admitted to a shelter that does not match their gender marker and that’s a very dangerous situation.”
In addition to homelessness, some youth also experience other extenuating challenges.
“Being homeless and being kicked out because of sexual orientation or gender identity puts them at greater risk for sexual abuse, physical abuse, especially on the streets,” Alwran noted. “A lot of them are dealing with heavy-hitting mental illness, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation.”
Alwran believes TOY can help build a more supportive community for young people. LGBT adults who might have once found themselves with similar challenges are in a position to become a housing provider and give back.
“It’s really important not only for our youth, it’s important to our providers,” Alwran said. “I think it’s really great for them to come together as a community and reach out to youth. A lot of them are LGBT identified and so they’ve been in the position to know what it’s like to come out or to not have family support.”
In an effort to support the Host Home Program’s continued growth, TOY hosts an informational session for the program where potential housing providers can learn more about about volunteering with the program. The most recent meeting was on July 16 at TOY’s offices at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 1900 The Plaza. : :