Regina Levine, chief program officer at local nonprofit The Promise House, said they used to have a federally funded place with beds specifically for homeless LGBTQ individuals. But eventually, the house lost its funding. Now, they only have four beds dedicated to homeless LGBTQ youths.
“But the four beds aren’t enough,” Levine said. “We get calls daily for assistance.”
They especially get calls from people who have recently aged out of care at facilities meant to serve homeless children. Once they turn 18, they have to go to adult shelters, which can sometimes be frightening, Levine said. “You walk into this place with all these adults and you have to navigate how to survive,” she said.
These shelters know it can be overwhelming for their newer, younger residents. When they can, the other shelters will call The Promise House to see if they have room for those between 18 and 24 years old. Things might be easier at a shelter dedicated to people in that age range with a focus on providing services to LGBTQ individuals. “You’re still going to be scared, but at least it’ll be a little more comfortable,” Levine explained.
The city is looking to fund a place like that. In a posting on its procurement portal, the city of Dallas said it wants to throw $6 million into a real estate development project aimed to provide housing for homeless LGBTQ youth between 18 and 24 years old.
Dallas is still in the early stages of the project. It’s seeking advice from local nonprofits about what such housing would look like and what services it should provide.
“You walk into this place with all these adults and you have to navigate how to survive.” – Regina Levine, The Promise House
There are a few shelters and organizations in Dallas that help serve homeless LGBTQ youths. The Dallas Hope Center opened in 2018 to provide transitional housing and services to young people in the LGBTQ community who are facing homelessness. The same year, Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance found that a quarter of youths living on the street identified as being part of the LGBT community, according to KERA.
But there have been calls for the city to put its own many into such a project for some time. In 2017, city residents voted for a $20 million bond package to tackle homelessness.
“So now we just need the city to allocate about $4 million to building a shelter for our LGBTQ homeless, a place where they can be safe and have resources to get them back on their feet and out of the homeless cycle,” then-City Council member Adam Medrano said. “And that’s why I’m committed to making sure the city of Dallas [puts] our money where our mouth is. We want to do this.”
That never happened, and calls for such a city-funded facility continued.
Outlast Youth, a homeless LGBTQ youth advocacy group, asked the city in 2020 to allocate $3 million of the bond package money to create an emergency shelter. The shelter would have served any young adult, but with a focus on LGBTQ individuals.
That’s how the city is billing this latest effort, as an LGBTQ focused real estate project for homeless youths. The city hopes the facility will provide childcare services, counseling, teen pregnancy needs and other services.
Across the U.S., about 22% of homeless youths identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Also, many people in the LGBTQ community have reported homelessness in different stages of their lives, according to The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy. About 71% of LGBTQIA+ individuals were homeless after turning 18. About one-fifth were homeless before they turned 18, and 8.6% were homeless in their youth and adult lives.
Levine said she’s excited the city is pursuing the new project “because it’s needed.”