I grew up shrouded with privilege. I’m not just referring to the racial and economic status I was born into; I grew up with the privilege of security in my life. I grew up not having to worry about being disowned by my family when I came out. I grew up knowing that I could get a good education despite my sexuality. I grew up knowing that I was safe. I was so far engulfed by this privilege for the longest time that I didn’t know anything else. Now I see otherwise almost every day of my life.
In the past I’ve read horror stories about people getting kicked out of their homes and families for being queer. Living in the deep, red South, it’s just something that happens as a way of life and people don’t really talk about it. It’s hushed along with the voices of our community. When I moved to Atlanta last fall, my eyes were opened to the blunt reality of homelessness in the LGBTQ community.
Data from “Lost-N-Found Youth”, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving Atlanta’s homeless LGBTQ youth.
Being a fairly accepting city nestled in the heart of a very conservative region of the country, Atlanta acts as a haven for many youth who have fled their homes. Unfortunately, however, many of these youth end up on the streets because of the lack of resources available. When I found out about the depth of this problem, I wanted to do something to help but I really didn’t know how I could make an impact on such a big issue.
At some point I became set on the idea that I was going to help by starting a “visual campaign” to raise awareness of these issues. My naïve self was convinced that by showing the world how poor some of these people’s lives are, we can make a change. I soon awoke to the fact that that wasn’t my place to act. I hadn’t lived that life and I really don’t know what it’s like. Instead I decided to become involved with Lost-N-Found Youth (LNF), a local shelter that specializes in caring for LGBTQ youth.
The shelter has many different opportunities for volunteers to get involved. One popular opportunity is their street outreach program. In this program, trained volunteers actively search for homeless youth to offer assistance if desired. Other opportunities include volunteering in the shelter’s thrift store, helping with needs at the youth center, and helping with event planning. Over the past few months I have been involved with different tasks at the shelter and have witnessed so much good that it does. During my time there, I also got a glimpse into the real lives of the people that rely on LNF.
Every person that goes through the shelter has a story. One thing that I learned while I was at the shelter, however, is that these stories aren’t limited to their experience with homelessness. Some have stories about their passion for music, some about their childhood. Some hold beautiful stories about self-discovery and self-love. These stories are a key in bridging the gap of misunderstanding that eludes the homeless community. I think they deserve to be heard.
This is exactly what Lost-N-Found is doing now. With the assistance of staff at the shelter, youth were given the opportunity to share their personalized stories with the world, using the influence of LNF as a platform for their voices to be heard. The goal of this blog is to continue to share these stories. The following stories have been written, personally decorated, and willingly publicized by youth at the shelter. Although there are many other things to be done to support these vulnerable members of our community, I believe sharing their stories is a step in the right direction.
To learn more about LNFY and how you can help to fight homelessness, go to LNFY.org or follow them on Facebook to stay updated on their work.
Click a story to read:
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This post was written by Point Scholar Hadden Kelly.
Hadden is currently studying Environmental Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. Hadden spent his high school career working to offer LGBTQ youth in his community of Southern Georgia with resources for emotional and financial support. His life goal is to provide clean and safe water to every last corner of the earth, as well as to find a more reliable and environmentally beneficial energy source. Read more about Hadden here.