Last month, I had the privilege of attending the ribbon cutting for the much-needed True Colors Bronx, where Cyndi Lauper again demonstrated her commitment to help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) young-adults facing homelessness.
Lauper has shown tremendous leadership in raising awareness and funds for LGBT youth struggling to get off of our streets, and she deserves our respect and accolades for focusing attention on the obstacles confronting these young people as well as the solutions bringing them homes and hope.
True Colors Bronx, operated by West End Residences, consists of thirty supportive housing studio apartments for LGBT young adults. This new facility is modeled after a successful one in Harlem, also operated by West End and embraced by Lauper.
It's probably obvious to most that the name for these residences -- True Colors -- comes from the pop icon's well-known hit song of the same title that envelops us in acceptance and inclusiveness.
In addition to Lauper, there are other stars in the True Colors movement and they can be found amongst the staff of West End Residences, where Executive Director Colleen Jackson and her colleagues have been tirelessly working to create the supportive housing that meets the needs of youth who often find themselves outcasts and homeless simply because of who they are.
For too many LGBT young people, discrimination is one of the main reasons they end up homeless. Sometimes they are even thrown out on the streets by their own families, who will not allow them to live their lives as LGBT. Many youth experiencing homelessness have run away from home or institutional care.
There are other reasons they leave their homes -- studies report high rates of sexual and physical abuse, as well as situations marked by neglect, alcoholism, and addictions. As a result, LGBT youth are disproportionately represented among the homeless youth population.
This is not an insignificant number of people or a minor issue. A study conducted by New York concluded that as much as 36% of the City's youth experiencing homelessness identified themselves as LGBT.
Homelessness is always bad, but if you're a young person and LGBT, the harassment, bullying, crime and trauma you face on the streets is magnified. That's why the efforts of Lauper and West End Residences are so very impactful.
Many groups, including CSH, now offers information and guidance around identifying youth experiencing homelessness likely to benefit from supportive housing. We also share funding and expert advice on how to create effective models of supportive housing for homeless and at-risk youth.
What Cyndi Lauper and West End Residences have elevated is our obligation to ensure that these young people have affordable housing, along with access to flexible supportive services, so they can begin to heal, create community connections and hone the skills they need to live stable, independent lives with the dignity they deserve.