- by Mary Leet -
Sanctuary is something every person needs. When I feel overwhelmed and out of control sometimes just spending time in a quiet place, be it my church or my dorm room or my parent’s house gives me enough solace that I can breathe again. Being there means I am free from judgment, at least for a little while, and I always know I have somewhere to go. Yet for many LGBTQ+ people, especially youth, that place of safety isn’t readily available.
PFLAG statistics state that 26% of gay and lesbian youth are forced to leave their homes because their parents do not support their sexual orientation. Almost 40% of all runaway and homeless youth identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, says studies conducted by the National Conference of State Legislatures. According to the National Runaway Switchboard, they are also four times more likely to exhibit the symptoms of major depression than heterosexual youth. To make things worse, some so-called “Christian” organizations like the Salvation Army have been known to turn away LGBTQ+ people in need of help unless they “repent” their identity. Being out can sometimes directly contribute to what keeps these children on the streets.
That’s why the proposed Runaway and Homeless Youth Inclusion Act, introduced to Congress on August 2nd is so important. This year, the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act is coming up for reauthorization, and U.S. Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI) has drafted this incredibly necessary change with co-sponsorship from U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI). There are currently no protections for LGBTQ+ runaway and homeless youth in the original legislation, which was last reauthorized in 2008.
I grew up singing a song by the name of Sanctuary, and you probably remember it too: “Lord, prepare me to be a Sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true, with thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.”
I try to be a sanctuary by being open and accessible, and connecting as many people as I can with the resources that can help them. I’m thankful for the National Runaway Switchboard, the Trevor Project, the It Gets Better campaign, and of course the Reconciling Ministries Network for helping so many people including myself, but so much more needs to be done.
There’s almost nowhere to turn in my hometown, I know. I’ve watched kids my age disappear after their parents kicked them out, and without a phone or internet access, what can you do to reach out to them? It is my hope and prayer that every runaway or homeless youth can go home soon and heal their relationship with their families, but to get there, they need help. That’s why I leapt to throw my support behind the Runaway and Homeless Youth Inclusion Act the second I become aware of it.
Help is out there for those who need it, but finding it isn’t something most kids can do on their own. I pray for my town, your town, this country, this world every day, but I also have a deep need to do what I can to take action. Every child should have a place they can call home. To be sent away from that because of their identity is wrong in itself, but to be then denied the necessary help to survive is what is truly unacceptable.
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