When we think about human rights issues, it’s easy to start with abuses around the world – it can be more challenging to open our eyes to problems right here in West Michigan.
Each night, more than 200 unaccompanied West Michigan youth find themselves on the streets without shelter.
Nearly half of these young people identify as LGBT individuals and many have been kicked out of their homes and exiled from their communities simply because they identify as LGBT.
Once they are out of their homes, LGBT youth are at a greater risk for victimization, unsafe sexual practices and mental health issues than non-LGBT youth experiencing homelessness.
Three years ago Shelley Padnos and Carol Sarosik stepped forward to declare it’s time we recognize and address the unique challenges faced by people who identify as LGBT in West Michigan. They partnered with us to create Our LGBT Fund, the first of its kind in the region, with a goal to create equal opportunity for the LGBT community. While the primary focus of the fund over the next three years is to address LGBT youth homelessness, the fund will exist far into the future to support solutions to issues impacting the LGBT community.
Since the inception of Our LGBT Fund, hundreds of community members across religious backgrounds and political viewpoints have come together to affirm that all people are important in West Michigan, to promise hope – for equality, inclusion and acceptance of all members of our community. In just three years, the Our LGBT Fund has grown to more than $600,000.
We are committed to making sure that every young person who identifies as LGBT is safe, protected and sheltered from the streets each night. In 2017, we awarded nearly $50,000 in grants to four organizations:
- Arbor Circle, $20,000: Establish a partnership with nationally recognized True Colors Fund to end homelessness among LGBT youth.
- Grand Rapids Trans Foundation, $2,500: Provide one college or trade school scholarship for a transgender student.
- Out on the Lakeshore: $5,000: Establish a center for LGBT individuals and their families, friends and allies to safely gather and meet.
- Well House: $20,000: Purchase and renovate a home for LGBT youth who are experiencing homelessness.
If you are interested in joining the fight against LGBT youth homelessness in West Michigan, learn more by clicking here.