Project Homeless Connect has been a San Francisco institution for the past ten years, offering necessities like counseling, haircuts, and dental work to the homeless population who desperately needed it, but this past Monday they decided to do something different.
Inspired by the 29% of at-risk LGBT adults identified in the city’s biennial homeless count, the people behind Project Homeless Connect actively decided to reach out to the LGBT homeless community for the first time ever. Through talking with LGBT clients and other volunteers, they found that being LGBT adds an extra layer of fear and frustration to being homeless, especially when seeking out help and services.
Most complained of experiencing bigotry and even physical violence from other homeless people, and of being afraid to ask for help, something San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee spoke to when discussing the goals of the LGBT outreach. “We will be doing some education in the shelters, just as we’ve done about dealing with women and children in the shelters. We need to educate people to be more sensitive and inclusive. We will work on this,” he said. “I’m saying to everyone — don’t walk away. Stay connected.”
While it may be a process to change the system, the LGBT Homeless Connect was a big success, drawing in 300 volunteers, 500 clients, and over 100 service providers. For client Rowan Chandler, a homeless unemployed library clerk that identifies as gay, it has come not a moment too soon. “Just being in a room with so many other homeless people who are like me is, well, I guess, nice,” Chandler said. “They’ve needed one of these things for a long time.”