Support Programs for Queer At-Risk Youth

Copyright (c) by Dina Mazina and Rebecca DiBrienza, 2008. All rights reserved.

Since the 1980s, statistics show that gay and lesbian youth were at a significantly higher risk of being abused, ostracized, and victimized. They are more likely to drop out of school, become pregnant, contract STDs (especially AIDS), committ suicide and get involved with drug and alcohol abuse. The Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI) was founded in 1979 in New York City as an advocacy organization, and began to direct resources towards gay and lesbian youth in 1983. HMI focused on providing a safe and welcoming environment for queer adolescents to grow and explore, as well serving as a resource for socializing, network building, counseling, sex education, and job preparation. HMI also provided homeless queer youth, many of whom were minorities (45% African-American, 35% Hispanic, 15% Caucasian, 5% Native American in 1995), with basic necessities such as hot meals, clean clothes, and showers. The organization also coordinated activities with the Harvey Milk School. [1]

Because LGBT youth often become runaways or "throwaways," as Grossman referred to them, they run a much higher risk of ending up homeless. Transitional living programs serve as a substitute for stable housing for homeless youth, and were established in 1974 through the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. Since then, especially with the rise of LGBT openness and AIDS awareness, many transitional living programs have been established to serve queer-identified youth. Studies since the mid-1990s have shown that queer homeless youth often engage in dangerous and illegal survival tactics, such as theft, sex work, and drug selling, and often face hostility from police officers in regard to their sexuality or gender presentation. Transitional living programs vary in organization, but all programs aim to create a safe and supportive community, as well as instill important life skills, such as income management and job skills, for members.[2]

Larking Street Youth Services in San Francisco began as Larking Street Drop-In Center in 1984 in response to an increase in the city's young homelessness population. [3] Green Chimneys, founded in 1947 in Putnam County, NY, as a private school, became focused on at-risk children in the 1970s and created programs specifically for LGBTQ youth in the 1980s. [4] The Lambert House in Seattle was started by the Association of Gay and Lesbian Youth Advocates in the late 1980s as a way for young gays and lesbian to socialize. It acquired the house, located in a prominent gay neighborhood, in 1991 and took on the Lambert name in 1993 after Gray Lambert, a local queer youth advocate.[5]


  1. Grossman, Arnold H (1995). Until there is acceptance. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 66(4), 47. Retrieved November 28, 2007, from Research Library database. (Document ID: 1774499)
  2. Theresa C Nolan (2006). "Outcomes for a Transitional Living Program Serving LGBTQ Youth in New York City". Child Welfare, 85(2), 385-406. Retrieved November 28, 2007, from Research Library database. (Document ID: 1073693321)
  3. Larkin Street Youth Services. “About Larking Street.” November 27, 2007.
  4. Green Chimneys Children’s Services. “Our Story.” November 27, 2007.
  5. Lambert House. “Lambert House Info.” November 27, 2007.