29 Percent of San Francisco's Homeless Population Is LGBT

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San Francisco is often touted as one of the most tolerant and progressive cities for LGBT people, but when it comes to the city's homeless population, that isn't often the case. According to the city's biennial homeless count, among the approximately 7,000 homeless residents, nearly 1 in 3 identified as LGBT, many of whom are kids.

As if being homeless for the holidays (and otherwise) wasn't bad enough, the stigma and abuse faced by homeless individuals who are also LGBT is far worse when compared to their straight counterparts. Brian Basinger, a co-founder of the AIDS Housing Alliance in San Francisco, said in a recent and sobering New York Times article that the harassment of gays is common in the city's shelters.

People there "do not have a lot of status in society to begin with, and so the way they protect or generate status in these social environments is to step on the queers," Basinger said.

Homeless LGBTs are also more likely to be robbed, attacked, sexually assaulted, and to have HIV/AIDS.

In response to the problem, organizations like Project Homeless Connect are stepping up. Last month, they had their first-ever fair for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, offering counseling, housing, dental work, haircuts, eyeglasses, and many other vital services. Hundreds of people turned out for the event, including Mayor Ed Lee and Bevan Dufty, the director of the city's homelessness initiatives.

Dufty implored S.F.'s LGBT homeless to "tell their stories to the city's Shelter Monitoring Committee, the Human Rights Commission or the Transgender Law Center ... I'm saying to everyone -- don't walk away. Stay connected."

LGBT homelessness is especially troubling when you consider how many are kids -- up to 40 percent, by some estimates. According to a Center for American Progress report, "LGBT youth continue to be disproportionately represented among homeless youth in our country, and their experiences of homelessness continue to be characterized by violence, discrimination, poor health, and unmet needs." Considering the recent treatment of non-homeless teen, Sasha Fleischman, being lit on fire on an Oakland bus for wearing a skirt, we can only imagine how tough it is out there for young queers who don't have supportive families or home lives.

Now that we are winning the battles on gay marriage, the military, baked goods, and Christmas ornaments, perhaps it's time to turn our attention back to the streets. You may have just missed the #GivingTuesday hullabaloo, but you don't need a specific day to give back, and if you really need a hashtag, well, here: #MinistrantMonday, #WriteOffWednesday, #TributeThursday, #FairFriday, #SupportiveSaturday, and #SootheYourConscienceSunday.

Some of the places doing great work for the city's homeless include: Larkin Street Youth Services, S.F. Homeless Resource, Glide, CATS, St. James Infirmary, and the Homelessness Resource Center.

Follow @annapulley on Twitter. She'll tweet you right.

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