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Partnership for Homeless LGBT Teens Gets $20,000

Mariano Avila

If national numbers hold up in West Michigan, as many as 40 percent of the homeless teens on a given night identify as LGBT.

Which could mean up to 80 young people in Grand Rapids alone.

The Grand Rapids Community Foundation gave Arbor Circle and the Gay and Lesbian Network of Grand Rapids $20,000 to study and support this somewhat hidden population. Julie Cnossen from Arbor Circle explained the grant this way.

“So The Network and Arbor Circle Partnered together to really start to say ‘how do we move the needle for LGBT youth in our community,’ particularly for those young people who are experiencing homelessness as a direct result of being brave and identifying and being open about who they are.”

It’s not just teens whose families have closed their doors for coming out. Sometimes, as Mike Hemmingsen, president of The Network, explains: it’s a lot more complicated.

“So there’s a lot of times that we’ll see or get a phone call from an individual saying ‘my spouse has given me an ultimatum: our child or [them].’ And now we’ve got a situation where not only is LGBT youth at risk, we’ve got a good portion of the family that could be at risk…”

Safe and Protected is the name of the partnership between the GRCF, Arbor Circle and The Network.

And the hope for the project is that teens feel safe coming out to their families and protected from life in the streets. 

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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