LGBT homeless youth bill gains momentum in D.C. Council

Media Credit: D.C. Council member Mary Cheh agreed to get a tattoo of the D.C. flag on a radio show last week. Hatchet File Photo

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Laura Porter.

The D.C. Council unanimously supported strengthening protections for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in a bill’s first reading Tuesday.

The bill, co-introduced by Council member and GW Law School professor Mary Cheh, would require all homeless youth shelters in D.C. to provide beds specifically for LGBT youth, and put more money into services.

Devin Ward, Cheh’s spokesman, said the bill will help young residents “bounce back” from homelessness by requiring shelters to engage with the LGBTQ community.

The bill would mandate a census count every five years to determine the number of the city’s homeless LGBT youth.

“Currently we don’t know how many homeless LGBTQ youth are in the District,” Ward said, “which is one of the reasons why this bill is so important.”

The District now has one housing program dedicated to solely that population. The Wanda Alston House, located in Northeast D.C., provides services and housing for LGBT homeless youth ages 16 to 24.

A 2009 report by the National Coalition for the Homeless found that LGBT youth make up about 20 percent of young people who are homeless in the U.S. They can face harsh conditions because of their sexuality and are about 7 times more likely than heterosexual youth to be victims of sexual violence.

A second vote on the bill will be held in February, and would then be up for a signature from Mayor Vincent Gray.

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