Finding Shelter

There’s something about the holidays that make them a prime time for coming out. The family’s all in one place, usually everyone is in high spirits and it feels like a positive environment, which makes a good recipe for courage. Not everyone’s experience is like that — some of us even get outed by our church, but that’s another story. As the family feel-good holidays come around and LGBT+ folks are offering their truth, it’s time to talk about safe spaces in case the truth doesn’t go over well at home. 

I know what you’re thinking: “It’s 2019 and everyone’s accepting!” Unfortunately, that’s not true. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, “40% of the homeless youth served by agencies... 43% of clients served by drop-in centers … 30% of street outreach clients” and “30% of clients utilizing housing programs identified as LGBT+.” These numbers only reflect those who were comfortable enough to reveal their sexuality, and some were searching for shelter because they were turned away by their families. I have been researching shelters since last year when a friend of mine, in the beginning of her transition, needed a place to stay. To this day, the search results are the same. Most centers focus on youth, which isn’t bad — it’s wonderful for those who are 12-20. But for adults, it makes age a disadvantage. One of the few shelters that listed their support of the LGBT+ homeless was reStart. It offers emergency lodging for families, singles and unaccompanied youth as well as help to attain permanent housing. But after reading repeat reviews of condescending treatment and bed bugs, I don’t feel comfortable recommending it. From the results of my search, I’ve concluded that shelters for LGBT+ adults aren't easy to find on the internet.

Websites such as that of Kansas City Anti-Violence Project and organizations offering transitional housing that require applications also surface. Those results, combined with the overwhelmingly religious shelter options, are at my fingertips along with LGBT+ organizations that host events and offer medical assessments. Don’t get me wrong, all these things are important for their purpose and oftentimes even list LGBT+ affirming churches, but none offer what I’m looking for. I’ve been wanting to write an article over a safe shelter for the LGBT+ homeless, but I can’t find the content. So, you ask, why am I writing this when I can’t offer an answer? To show how difficult I’m finding it and implore you to share any information you have on LGBT+ affirming shelters that treat those who come in with respect and offer emergency or overnight housing for those who walk in. I suppose that when I say I don’t have an answer, I’m lying. I have an answer, just not the one I want. 

In order to be more aware of shelters and organizations that can point people to a shelter, we need information to circulate. Let’s share locations on social media, by word of mouth or let’s reach out through an article to share what information we don’t have and prompt change in that. When buying things online, I’ve found it’s better to ask someone who’s shopped with the store I’m considering than rely on the store’s advertised images of products. Word of mouth gives this same advantage. Those who have stayed in shelters can relay which locations are a safe space, but we have to encourage them not to be embarrassed or afraid to share their stories. Another thing that we can do is offer our homes for those in need. Not everyone is able to take unexpected guests for the holidays, of course. Houses are small, especially when they’re already filled with aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws who traveled in from out of state. It’s those of us with three bedroom apartments and have a room to lend that can make a difference. 

To someone without connections, without available information, finding a shelter can be hard. Sadly, though it’s typically a season for gathering families, LGBT+ people risk losing their homes when they come out to their families and those who are turned out need shelter. Shelters are usually connected to churches, outreaches and such organizations, but the word shelter simply means a place to stay. Seeking shelter can mean a room with friends. So, if you know of an LGBT+ safe shelter, even if that shelter is a spare room, please make it known so someone who’s turned out this Thanksgiving has a safe place to go.