LGBTQ youth at higher risk of facing homelessness or ‘couch hopping’
Dylan Brooks said he was “almost a statistic.”
“I was outed my senior year of high school, and because it was such a small-knit community, I had to go and tell my parents before it got around, like, and mama found out through the grocery story line," he said. "Like, I could already feel things that there were things that were going to go down. Like, there were conversations. I could already feel my father was gonna have about, like, 'Oh, he needs to go. No child of mine is going to be gay.'"
It's a story Brooks said is not so unique, but he calls himself one of the lucky ones.
"Luckily, my mother stood up for me enough to be like, 'We can't kick him out. There's no place to go in rural northeast Georgia. He's not going to sleep in the woods," he said. "I did run away to my grandma on several occasions, but I at least had a place to go, unlike some of these youth."
Now, Brooks leans on that experience to help others at the Compass Community Center in Lake Worth Beach. He described some of the homeless LGBTQ youth that come in.
"On a park bench or, like, they're taking showers at the beach," he said. "That's no place for an 18-to-25-year-old to live and try to thrive. It's just not right."
When youth come in identifying as homeless, Brooks calls himself the point person.
"As soon as they start identifying within the LGBTQ+ community, that is when their family automatically kicks them out," he said, describing what happens for some. "It is still happening way too much in 2021. It's still an epidemic of its own, and it should not be happening, but it still is."
Julie Seaver, executive director of the Compass Community Center, said all of them are facing identity crises.
"LGBTQ youth are 120 times more susceptible to homelessness and most cases it's due to family conflict," Seaver said.
They're taking action at the center.
"A lot of our story lines about why we do the work that we do here stems from our experiences," she said.
She said they are committed to better futures for LGBTQ youth.
"When we increase their quality of life of the most marginalized, we increase the lives of all youth and young adults," she said. "It's a scary world out there."
Seaver works to shed light on all members of the LGBTQ community, but she highlights one in particular.
"Our trans people are the most marginalized, the most discriminated against," she said. "They have the highest chance of being victimized, whether it be through employment, housing and, unfortunately, murder and death."
The Compass Community Center partners with community groups and law enforcement, educating them on unique issues LGBTQ homeless youth face.
"When we are in the social services community, getting to the root of the problem is really looking at the system as a whole and where are the holes and where are having people fall through the cracks," Seaver said. "We do know that 40% of LGBTQ youth will experience either homelessness or couch hopping at one point in their lives or another."
The hope Seaver has is for parents to accept their children as they are.
"Just love and acceptance in helping your children become who they are, allowing them to tell you who they are," Seaver said.
Yet, they still acknowledge the problem exists.
"One of our youth who came in the other night, like, not going to lie, I was having total flashbacks to the night that, for my own personal story, and it just rocked me all night," Brooks said. "It's still hard to believe that in 2021 we still have youth getting kicked out for being themselves and trying to be their truth."
Scripps Only Content 2021