Alabama fans hope the state is #1 in football after the championship game. But the state is already #1 in another area: youth homelessness. The National Center on Family Homelessness released a report - America's Youngest Outcasts 2010 - that documents the problem and ranks states from best to worst.
Alabama is the worst. Again.
- Over 28,000 homeless kids in 2010 - #45 in the nation. That's pretty shocking considering that states with far higher total populations have far fewer homeless young people.
- Alabama's rank has dropped from #32 in the nation in 2006 to #50 in 2010.
- Alabama has NO statewide planning efforts that focus on children and families. That's not surprising; our state government unfortunately does very little long-range planning in any area.
An ABC News report focused on the problem of GLBT youth homelessness:
About 20 to 40 percent of youth who leave home like Cocco to live on the streets identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), according to National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
In one study, 26 percent of teens who came out to their parents were told they must leave home. Others said they were physically, sexually or emotionally abused. The task force added that LGBT youth also reported that they are threatened, belittled and abused at shelters, not only by other residents, but by staff, as well.
The couple, who were married seven years ago, said they found it hard to comprehend the cruelty of parents who reject their children.
And yet that sort of rejection happens every day. Just ask James Robinson, founder of GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services. The Huntsville advocacy & service organization provides emotional support for GLBTQ youth and temporary housing for homeless youth through its Host Home program.
Alabama law allows parents to terminate financial support as of a child's 18th birthday. Alabama law also prohibits anyone under the age of 19 to enter into any sort of contract - even signing an apartment lease. During that gap year, homeless youth have few options.
This actually happened to one of our daughter's high school friends. The son of a minister, he had a part-time job, was active in his father's church, was enrolled in AP classes, and planning for college. He was also gay and his parents were - to put it mildly - not pleased. Two weeks before his 18th birthday, the parents informed him he should pack up & get ready to leave to the house.
When I related this story to Robinson, he was saddened, but not surprised. He's heard many such tales before:
Just this week I heard a young man share about his attempted suicide; a young lady told me that she was harassed and bullied to the point of leaving public school to be home schooled; a young lady told me online that her mother told her she wished she would kill herself so that she would not live gay and go to Hell, and a mother called me because her daughter was suspended from school for talking about her girlfriend.
Robinson operates his agency on half a shoestring budget and takes no salary for his full-time work. Even a $10 donation helps buy pizza for the weekly youth support group meeting.
Help him help these kids by donating online (tax deductible!). And help all homeless youth and families by asking your legislators to make them a priority. Yes, money is tight and times are hard for everyone. But that doesn't mean we're justified in tossing aside the most vulnerable people in our society.
When we ignore and throw away our children, we're throwing away our future.