DC Council Passes Bill for LGBT Youth

Measure aims to improve safe options for homeless LGBT youth in the District

The D.C. Council this week unanimously passed for a second time the LGBTQ Homeless Youth Reform Amendment Act, aimed at addressing shelter and support services needs of homeless youth in the District who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning.

Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who is gay, worked with local advocates, government officials and provider organizations to form a working group following the initial passage of the LGBTQ Homeless Youth Reform Act in December of last year. The working group hashed over several concerns with the bill, largely focusing on the availability of emergency shelter beds allotted for LGBT youth – in total, 10 emergency beds will be set aside – and on longer-term programs or solutions such as family reunification and host homes, which can be funded through a provision in the legislation that gives the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs grant-making authority.

The bill, which is fully funded, also contains provisions that require the Interagency Council on Homelessness to keep data on LGBT youth and make annual recommendations on how best to serve that specific population. Shelters will also be required to amend and update policies regarding protections for and treatment of residents based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including allowing gender nonconforming youth to access gender-specific facilities in accordance with their self-identification.

Graham has also introduced legislation that would require the Department of Human Services to fill all uncommitted slots in locally funded permanent supportive housing programs within 60 days of the opening up of such slots, in order to be able to more effectively link homeless individuals and families living on the streets or relying on shelters with a source of more stable housing.

”Both pieces of legislation go to the heart of the need for emergency shelter capacity in the District of Columbia,” Graham said in a statement released by his office.

The communications director for The DC Center, the city’s LGBT community center, Matt Corso, issued a statement praising the passage of the amended LGBTQ Homeless Reform Act earlier this week, saying the organization was ”delighted” with the bill’s success.

”The DC Center has been working on this push for years,” Dr. Eddy Ameen, chair of The DC Center’s Youth Working Group and secretary of the center’s board of directors, said in a statement. ”We think the bill not only retains our original intent, but was considerably strengthened through ongoing dialogue between the Committee on Human Services and advocates and providers.”

”The DC Center praises community advocates, Councilmembers Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) for introducing the bill in 2013, and the Committee on Human Services, led by Chairman Jim Graham, for his leadership in getting the bill passed,” Corso said. ”The DC Center recognizes that creating more emergency shelter space is a stop-gap measure and commits its energy to ending youth homelessness in the District by 2020.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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