A Snowy Montana Day

 

As I travel around our vast state—one that seems to feel even larger when piled with heaps of snow—I meet people who are interested in hearing not only about LGBTQ equality in Montana, but also about how they can help to advance it.

The subject I am asked about most often is LGBTQ youth homelessness—especially since we shared the story of Alex, one of the youth participants of the convening on youth homelessness that Pride Foundation co-hosted in 2016.

While many of these activities are in progress, here is a quick snapshot of Pride Foundation’s recent work to address the critical and timely issue of youth homelessness in Montana:

 

Establishing and coordinating a workgroup to tackle this issue head-on:

This working group is made up of a diverse group of stakeholders including funders, service providers, youth who have experienced homelessness first-hand, and social workers invested in creating lasting change.

 

Addressing legal barriers that LGBTQ youth face when seeking services:

In partnership with Robin Turner at Montana Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence, we are working on a draft plan for an upcoming roundtable discussion with workgroup members in March. The hope is to bring forward legislation next session to address the current barriers for minors to access overnight shelter without obtaining written permission from their parents, and also look into other non-legislative solutions, if available.

Requiring youth to obtain written permission from their parents in order to sleep in a shelter is especially problematic for youth who have been kicked out of their homes or forced to flee, or youth who are currently living in abusive situations.

 

Engaging those most impacted through youth advisory councils:

Throughout the past two months, we have been meeting with local organizations such as Tumbleweed in Billings, the Montana Continuum of Care Coalition, Sparrows Nest in Kalispell, and Empower MT with hopes of establishing a youth advisory council that will serve to center the voices and leadership of youth experiencing homelessness in these ongoing efforts.

We have also been asked to join an advisory council under Lewis and Clark County that focuses on intentional and thoughtful criminal justice reform. This will be an opportunity to raise awareness about the disproportionate impact of housing instability on LGBTQ youth and youth of color, and how the juvenile justice system can either contribute to or address this issue.

 

Addressing homelessness at the local level:

Since August 2017, Pride Foundation has been partnering with a local Helena City Commissioner on local opportunities such as:

  • Transforming un-used building space into public housing, youth shelters, and community spaces for youth experiencing homelessness.
  • Increasing access to public transportation and/or increasing the areas of Helena that public transportation is able to cover.

 

Public Education through Presentations to Broad Groups of Stakeholders:

Over the coming months, Pride Foundation will be presenting at a number of conferences and universities:

  • A workshop at the Title I Conference for the Office of Public Instruction on supporting LGBTQ youth in schools and raising awareness about the disproportionate impact of housing instability on LGBTQ youth and youth of color.
  • A workshop at the Annual Conference for the Montana Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers on the disproportionate impact of housing instability on LGBTQ youth and youth of color, and the importance of supporting these youth across our communities.
  • A keynote presentation during the No More Violence Week at the Great Falls College of Montana State University on LGBTQ Youth Homelessness, the school to prison pipeline, and the resulting overrepresentation in the juvenile justice system, and right rates of trafficking and suicidal ideation if it’s not appropriately addressed.

 

Focusing on lifting up the voices of youth experiencing homelessness in Montana:

Over the past four months, we have been working with a local storyteller to identify young people with lived experiences so he can capture their stories and share them via podcasts and/or an eventual documentary.

 

To get involved in one or more of these projects, or to chat more about this work in Montana, email Kim Leighton.

Posted In: Blog, Blog, Connecting Leaders, Blog, Montana, News & Events, Blog, State-Specific, Stories