Our LGBT (lesbian, gay biexual, transgender) Fund, a new field of interest fund at Grand Rapids Community Foundation has reached $270,000 in community donations, exceeding the original goal and 1:1 match set in August. Shelley Padnos and Carol Sarosik, created the Fund at the Community Foundation with a matching gift of $100,000. Padnos and Sarosik expressed a desire to fund programs that support vulnerable and homeless LGBT youth in West Michigan. “We’re beyond pleased that that campaign was successful so quickly. It shows me that not only was the time right to ask the LGBT community and its allies to help, but that the issue of homeless and marginalized gay youth matters to people here,” Padnos said. Gifts to Our LGBT Fund were made by 162 individuals, couples and organizations in West Michigan.
The issue of youth homelessness is heartbreaking. Nationally more than 500,000 young people live on the streets are more vulnerable to harm physical harm, sexual abuse and exploitation than adults. For LGBT homelessness is even more of a harsh reality—often families are unaccepting when youth come out and they are forced out of the home or run away due to rejection, conflict or abuse.
The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law report in July, 2012 estimates that LGBT youth make up between about 40 percent of the youth homeless population, yet, they only make up 10 percent of the youth population, so proportionally more LGBT youth are on the streets than their straight peers. LGBT youth are 7.4 times more likely to experience sexual violence than heterosexual homeless youth. LGBT youth, once homeless, are at higher risk for victimization, mental health problems, and unsafe sexual practices. Further, LGBT homeless youth commit suicide at twice the rate of straight homeless youth higher 62 percent to 29 percent. “We’re anxious to see how we can change things here in West Michigan when it comes to how young LGBT people are regarded,” Sarosik said. “We know there are organizations that want to help and now there will be resources to help.”
“The Community Foundation is supportive of Our LGBT Fund because of our focus on diversity and inclusion. We also have a history of work in housing and ending homelessness and we value bringing equity to underserved populations including youth. The fund fits well with the work we already do,” said Diana Sieger, president of Grand Rapids Community Foundation.
Grand Rapids Community Foundation has dozens of other endowed field of interest funds that provide grants to nonprofits that serve causes like the environment, older adults, veterans, children and the arts. Like Our LGBT Fund, donors create these funds to support causes that matter to them.
People wishing to contribute to Our LGBT Fund may do so by visiting www.grfoundation.org/lgbtfund