New effort to help homeless gay Houston youth

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A coalition of groups across Harris County – led by the gay Montrose Center – launched an effort to end homelessness among LGBT youth in the next five years.

The collaboration between more than 60 agencies and service providers – called NEST – ends eight months of planning and puts into action a five-step plan to address the problem, which organizers say could impact an estimated 5,000 LGBT teens who run away or are kicked out of their homes by 2020.

“One objective of NEST is to identify successful strategies for intervening early to address conflict in the home,” Deb Murphy, youth specialist at the Montrose Center, says in a prepared statement. “In the event that it’s not safe and appropriate for the youth to remain in the home, then we also want to ensure that all service providers are able to work with the youth in an inclusive and affirming manner.” 

The coalition announced the effort on Jan. 19 and detailed its five key goals:

  • Facilitate better local collaboration between stakeholders working with youth to develop and implement a comprehensive community strategy to prevent homelessness among LGBTQ youth
  • Improve identification of LGBTQ youth at‐risk of or experiencing episodic homelessness through outreach, screening and assessment
  • Identify, coordinate and improve policies & interventions to prevent LGBTQ youth homelessness across shelter and housing systems (e.g., primary and behavioral health care, child welfare, education, employment, juvenile justice, law enforcement)
  • Reduce homelessness among LGBTQ youth and improve their outcomes in the areas of permanent connections, stable housing, education/employment, and well‐being
  • Inform national strategies for preventing & ending homelessness among LGBTQ youth

The coalition, which includes LGBT organizations AIDS Foundation Houston, Legacy Community Health Services and Montrose Grace Place, is just one of two in the country taking part in the prevention initiative. The other is in Hamilton County, Ohio. Both efforts are funded by several federal agencies.

“The energy that the community in Harris County has put into this project is admirable and contagious,” former Houstonian Jama Shelton says in a press release. “I’m excited to do everything I can do help make the plan succeed, so that LGBTQ young people in Harris County have access to everything they need to reach their full potential.” 

Shelton serves as the Forty to None Project Director at the True Colors Fund, a national organization working to end LGBTQ youth homelessness. 

The Montrose Center, which is also home to the gay youth group Hatch, will help implement the plan, which was created during a strategic planning process that involved 93 stakeholders from scores of non-profit and government agencies, faith groups and elected leaders.


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