Target: San Francisco Planning Commission
Goal: Provide more security for youth and elderly LGBTQ
LGBTQ individuals make up a large portion of homeless populations in major cities. In San Francisco, where 15 percent of the city’s population identifies as gay, that proportion nearly doubles to 29 percent of the homeless population identifying as gay. LGBTQ individuals under the age 25 make up as much as 40 percent of homeless youth in Boston and Los Angeles. Many of these youths fled hostile living environments with nowhere else to go. Yet the older generation of homeless gays face different hardships to getting back on their feet.
Formerly unable to legally marry, have children, and use traditional ways of setting up retirement all undermined prospects of security for elderly LGBTQ individuals. Having adult children can act as a protection from eviction, a perquisite that many gays were not privy to. Homosexuality, being less accepted in earlier decades, translated to more occurrences of diminished family lives. With severed familial ties, many turned to the gay community as their new families, only to see many of their friends’ bodies ravaged by HIV/AIDS and pervasive, institutionalized discrimination.
With a higher number of gay public officials today, and the recent suicide of gay and evicted former business owner, Jonathan Klein, the city of San Francisco has discussed increasing aid to LGBTQ homeless, specifically. Many LGBTQ homeless, particularly older or transgender homeless, feel discriminated against at homeless shelters. Talks of creating a LGBTQ-dedicated homeless shelter have been in the works for two years, although the shelter would only have 24 beds, not nearly enough to house the large LGBTQ homeless. By signing the petition below, you will demand that the San Francisco Planning Commission make a concerted effort to lessen the burdens and obstacles of LGBTQ youth and elderly gays by providing them with greater security and LGBTQ-dedicated shelters.
Dear San Francisco Planning Commission,
While San Francisco is a model of progress and acceptance that other parts of our country look to, the city does not do enough to protect the LGBTQ population from homelessness and its effects. Statistics show that, while 15 percent of San Francisco’s population identifies as LGBTQ, they make up nearly double that proportion among the city’s homeless. This disproportionate representation is caused by multiple reasons: while many LGBTQ youth are driven from unaccepting or violent homes, the elderly face generational obstacles, such as losing their support network to HIV/AIDs, as well as being formerly unable to marry and create their own families.
National Public Radio (NPR) recently interviewed Tim Oviatt, a 64-year-old San Francisco resident who once was a successful business owner. He had the misfortune of losing his spouse, his business, and then his apartment, and had little choice but to live out of this car for nine months. Sadly, Oviatt’s case is not unique. He represents the many elderly LGBTQ homeless who had to take to the streets due to uncontrollable circumstances.
Despite the popular image of the gay community being successful and affluent, there’s a large segment that struggles to simply find a place to sleep. Even in shelters, the LGBTQ homeless have cited instances of discrimination and lack of social support. We urge the city of San Francisco to continue being an exemplar of progress by better supporting the LGBTQ homeless as well as those who find themselves in desperate situations.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon via Wikimedia