Approximately 40 percent of the city's homeless youth are members of the LGBT community, according to the Ali Forney center, a leading advocacy organization that works in the field.
If this number is shocking, think again.
The city is known for its liberalism, but on the issue of gay rights deep problems still persist. Several Democratic state senators- many of them from Queens- helped vote down a bill that would have legalized same sex marriage.
Lesbian, gay, transgendered and bisexual youth face harassment at public and private schools, and even from friends and family. The gay marriage vote sent a strong message that we are still unready to extend full rights to the LGBT community
Under these circumstances, its no wonder that young people feel ostracized. and those without homes are the most vulnerable of all; the executive director of the Ali Forney Center, Carl Siciliano, said LGBT youth who live on the streets are "harrassed and beaten" by their peers at regular homeless shelters.
The center's Astoria homeless shelter, geared specifically for LGBT youth, is doing good work to provide a safe haven from bigotry, along with vital services like healthcare and education. It has only been open for nine months, but has already placed 15 young people in permanent homes.
The shelter can't go it alone, however. More like it need to open and, hopefully, as awareness of the issue grows, people will step forward to volunteer their time and resources.
In the meantime, and as the LGBT community prepares for another legislative battle for same-sex marriage, they can take solace in small victories.
A Brooklyn jury convicted Keith Phoenix of murder as a hate crime in the killing of Ecuadorian immigrant Jose Sucuzhanay. The victim was walking home from a party with his brother in Bushwick when Phoenix and a friend, Hakim Scott, attacked them viciously, shouting anti-gay epithets, according to witnesses.
Despite the evidence, Scott was not convicted of murder as a hate crime (though he will get jail time). Phoenix's first trial resulted in a mistrial. Both times, the LGBT community was outraged.
But this time, in Phoenix's second trial, the jury got it right.
After incidents like that one, elected officials say that hate crime and intolerance against the LGBT community won't be tolerated. But somehow they are, because they keep happening. Likewise the city has let its LGBT homeless population spiral out of control. It's time to tackle these issues head on.