Spotlight hits plight of gay homeless ATL youth

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imageBrian Dixon has come a long way since living on the streets for a year. The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange investigates his journey to shed light on life for Atlanta’s homeless LGBT teens and young adults.

Dixon (photo), 21, is one of the success stories coming out of Summit Trail, the apartment complex sponsored by CHRIS Kids’ LGBT-inclusive TransitionZ program that provides supportive housing and life skills training to at-risk youth who are working toward a new life. He became one of the lucky ones to land a spot in the program back in 2009 after a rough year without a home.

Once relegated to the streets for that year, Dixon says he, like many displaced LGBT youth, resorted to selling sex in exchange for food and places to stay. Soon thereafter he flunked out of college and was strung out on methamphetamine, cocaine and heroine.

In the first of a three-part series on LGBT issues by JJIE, The Other Side of the Rainbow: Young, Gay and Homeless in Metro Atlanta ultimately paints a bright future for Dixon, but a darker picture for hundreds of LGBT teens in the city and state.

Ironically Dixon says a lot of LGBT young people flock to Atlanta from across the country and the Southeast because of its prevalent image as a “gay friendly city.” Once here, he says, there’s often a rude awakening.

“I pray that I live to see the day when Atlanta and the South become an affirming, more accepting place no matter who you are and where you come from,” says Dixon. “Dr. [Martin Luther] King said an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere. We need to finish Dr. King’s work.”

The detailed profile also talks to CHRIS Kids Director Kathy Colbenson and YouthPride counselor Tana Hall about the disproportionate number of LGBTs among homeless youth and the limited resources available to help them. It’s a portrait of gay Atlanta that doesn’t fit some people’s gay-friendly perception of Atlanta, which has been named the fourth “meanest city” for homeless people by the National Coalition for the Homeless .

“Atlanta is a gay friendly city for adults with money; if you’re white and privileged like me,” asserts Hall. “I live in Decatur [next to Atlanta] and there are so many lesbians here. If you have a job and money it’s easy to be gay here, but not so much if you don’t fall into that category.”

Dixon, a member of the gay-welcoming Vision Church of Atlanta, now has a nursing certificate, is on the job hunt, and dreams of one day becoming a Pentacostal minister.

Photo by John Fleming, JJIE


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