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Combatting scourge of LGBTQ youth homelessness in D.C.

There are many local resources available to help

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(Photo courtesy of the Mayor's Office of LGBTQ Affairs)

LGBTQ youth homelessness is a significant problem across the United States, but it is particularly acute in Washington, D.C. According to government statistics, a significant percentage of homeless youth in the country identify as LGBTQ. These vulnerable individuals face unique challenges due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, which often leads to estrangement from their families and communities.

In the lively, flashy streets of our hometown, Washington, D.C., and amid the city’s well-heeled new complexes like the D.C. Wharf in Southeast and City Centre Downtown, an alarming number of our youth find themselves without a place to call home, facing discrimination, abandonment, and societal neglect.

According to a 2022 article in DCist, “Queer and transgender youth are vastly overrepresented in the unhoused population. Nationally, 7% of people between the ages of 13 and 25 years old identify as LGBTQ+, while 40% of unhoused people of those same ages do. D.C.’s most recent Youth Count, which surveys the number of youth experiencing homelessness and housing instability, reports that the same is true in the District, with 40% of youth experiencing homelessness identifying as LGBTQ.”

Helping our youth may require more than just a simple annual or monthly donation. When you consider what you can do to help the District’s LGBTQ youth, you will want to do your homework to make sure the services you believe you are contributing to are reaching the youth in need. Below, you’ll find a few key elements to know to be informed and a few actions you can take to make a meaningful difference.

Discrimination isn’t the only cause of LGBTQ youth homelessness in our area. Several factors contribute to the high rates in Washington, D.C. One primary cause is family rejection, as many young individuals are forced out of their homes when they come out as LGBTQ.

Some families struggle to accept their child’s sexual identity or gender expression, leading to emotional or even sometimes physical abuse.

Discrimination in housing and employment also can play a significant role, making it difficult for LGBTQ youth to secure stable housing or find sustainable employment opportunities.

Additionally, the intersectionality of LGBTQ identities with race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status may tend to exacerbate the issue.

LGBTQ youth from marginalized communities — African American and individuals of Latin American descent — are disproportionately affected by homelessness due to familial expectations and social stigma within ethnic or racial communities.

Homeless LGBTQ youth in Washington, D.C., confront numerous challenges that hinder their ability to thrive. These challenges include a lack of access to safe and affordable housing, limited educational opportunities, higher rates of substance abuse, mental health issues, and an increased risk of experiencing violence on the streets, or even exploitation.

Importance of support and resources

Addressing the scourge of homelessness for our youth requires a multi-faceted approach involving the government, community organizations, and individuals like you. The provision of safe and inclusive shelters is crucial, offering a supportive environment where young LGBTQ individuals can find refuge without fear of discrimination or harassment.

Moreover, comprehensive support systems must be established to address the unique needs of LGBTQ homeless youth. This includes mental health services, educational support, job training, and access to healthcare. Collaborative efforts between local organizations, policymakers, and the community can ensure that these individuals receive the care, resources, and opportunities they need to rebuild their lives.

Advocacy and policy changes

Advocacy plays a vital role in raising awareness and pushing for policy changes to combat LGBTQ youth homelessness in Washington, D.C. Organizations dedicated to LGBTQ rights and homelessness prevention actively work to promote inclusive policies, advocate for increased funding for support programs, and provide training to service providers to ensure they are equipped to address the specific needs of this vulnerable population.

LGBTQ youth homelessness in D.C. is an ongoing crisis that demands attention and action from individuals, organizations, and policymakers alike. Here are a few things you can do to help:

• Use Your Voice. Establish an ongoing voice in your ANC or your Ward on these matters. Reach out to your ANC commissioner if you feel your ANC can help. Start an ongoing conversation with the Constituent Services employees in your Ward member’s office and those offices of the At-Large Councilmembers. And reach out to the Mayor’s office when you have information that can help.

• Volunteer and Contribute. Volunteer your time and (when possible) financial support to organizations in the District that are making an on-the-ground difference. Volunteering can provide you a starting point to learn how the organization you seek to support operates and to see how efficient and effective they are internally at providing direct services to our youth.

• Know Your Partners. SMYAL does yeoman’s work working to establish healthy relationships with community organizations nationwide helping homeless LGBTQ+ youth. Learn about their work and see where supporting them makes sense for you. SMYAL does a lot to help housing providers exercise cultural competencies to address the needs of those homeless youth from our community. And SMYAL is just one group helping. Learn who your partners are.

So while significant progress has been made, there is still more work to be done to fully address the issue of LGBTQ youth homelessness in D.C. and nationwide. Ongoing advocacy, funding, and community involvement can be your leverage to help create sustainable solutions and ensure that all LGBTQ youth have access to safe housing, supportive services, and a chance to thrive in our great city.

Join CPM in contributing to local and national organizations focused specifically on LGBTQ+ youth homelessness such as the True Colors Foundation and SMYAL. Even the Salvation Army has a special program designed to reach our youth.

Resources and partners

True Colors Foundation. ”True Colors United,” founded by Cyndi Lauper and its executive director, Gregory Lewis focuses on addressing homelessness among LGBTQ youth. True Colors United works to raise awareness, provide resources, and support initiatives that aim to end homelessness among this population.

They collaborate with various stakeholders, including individuals, communities, government agencies, and service providers, to develop innovative solutions and implement policies that can effectively address the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ homeless youth. True Colors United also provides training and technical assistance to service providers, helping them create safe and inclusive environments for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness.

The Salvation Army. In the past, some LGBTQ activists and organizations have criticized the Salvation Army for discriminatory practices, specifically related to its treatment of LGBTQ individuals. Concerns have been raised about the organization’s position on same-sex relationships and its history of lobbying against LGBTQ rights.

It’s important to note that the Salvation Army is a decentralized organization, and its policies and practices may vary across different regions and locations. Some individual Salvation Army centers and programs may have taken steps to be more inclusive and supportive of LGBTQ individuals.

In recent years, the Salvation Army has made efforts to address concerns and improve its relationship with the LGBTQ community. They have stated that their services are available to all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

SMYAL. SMYAL (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders) is an organization based in D.C. that focuses on supporting and empowering LGBTQ youth. While SMYAL primarily focuses on providing a range of services to LGBTQ youth, including support groups, counseling, leadership development, and advocacy, they also address LGBTQ youth homelessness.

SMYAL acknowledges that LGBTQ youth are disproportionately affected by homelessness due to various factors, including family rejection, discrimination, and lack of supportive resources. To address this issue, SMYAL offers specific programs and initiatives:

Housing Support: SMYAL provides assistance and support to LGBTQ youth who are experiencing homelessness or housing instability. They work with local partners to help youth find safe and affirming housing options, navigate the housing system, and access necessary resources.

Emergency Housing: SMYAL operates an emergency housing program known as the SMYAL House. This residential program provides temporary shelter and support services for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness. The program aims to create a safe and inclusive environment where youth can access resources, receive counseling, and work toward securing stable housing.

Outreach and Education: SMYAL engages in community outreach and education efforts to raise awareness about LGBTQ youth homelessness. They work to educate the public, service providers, and policymakers about the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ youth and advocate for policies and practices that ensure their safety and well-being.

Supportive Services: SMYAL offers a range of supportive services to LGBTQ youth, including case management, mental health counseling, employment assistance, and educational support. These services aim to address the underlying issues that contribute to youth homelessness and help young people build resilience and self-sufficiency.

Wanda Alston Foundation. The Wanda Alston Foundation is dedicated to ensuring that LGBTQ youth have access to services that improve their overall quality of life. Donations naturally continue their work to change the lives of LGBTQ homeless and at-risk youth for the better. Remote volunteer opportunities are available until we resume in-person volunteering. Current volunteer projects include: Social media management, website management, fundraising, policy review and development, and communications. Check out their website for ways to get involved.

Scott Bloom is senior property manager and owner, Columbia Property Management.

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Real Estate

Maximizing your homebuying strategy amid changing interest rates

Consult an expert when navigating unpredictable market

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If you’re looking to buy, stay up to date on market trends.

The Federal Reserve’s recent decision to pause its rate hikes and signal potential reductions in 2024 has sparked a wave of interest among prospective homebuyers. As the housing market remains dynamic, many are wondering if now is the right time to connect with a LGBTQ Realtor and embark on the house hunting journey.

In today’s real estate landscape, where factors like interest rates, market conditions, and personal financial readiness intersect, making informed decisions is key. Let’s explore the considerations involved in maximizing your homebuying strategy, even in the face of potential interest rate reductions down the road.

Assessing the Current Market

Before diving into the homebuying process, it’s crucial to understand the present real estate market conditions. Key factors include housing prices, inventory levels, and local real estate trends. These factors vary widely by location, and what may hold true in one area may not in another. The availability of homes, their affordability, and the demand for properties all play a role in shaping your homebuying experience.

Interest Rates and the Fed’s Actions

While the Federal Reserve’s influence on interest rates is substantial, it’s essential to remember that mortgage rates are influenced by various factors, including market forces, economic conditions, and global events. Predicting the exact timing and extent of rate reductions can be challenging. It’s wise to stay informed about financial news and seek guidance from experts when making rate-related decisions.

Your Financial Preparedness

Homeownership requires a solid financial foundation. Assess your readiness by considering factors such as your credit score, down payment savings, and debt-to-income ratio. Lenders scrutinize these aspects to determine your eligibility for a mortgage. It’s vital to have a stable income and job security, as this will impact your ability to handle homeownership costs.

If you’d like to get pre-qualified for a mortgage, ask your real estate agent for a referral.

Long-Term Plans

Think about your long-term plans and how they align with homeownership. Are you planning to settle in the area for an extended period, or is this a short-term investment? Evaluate your financial flexibility and whether you can comfortably manage homeownership expenses like maintenance, property taxes, and insurance.

Consulting with a Realtor

Connecting with a Realtor who understands your goals and the local market is invaluable. Realtors from platforms like GayRealEstate.com can provide insights into market conditions, housing options, and potential investment opportunities. They can help you assess whether now is the right time to start the house-hunting process based on your unique circumstances.

Refinancing as a Future Option

While securing a lower interest rate in the future is a possibility, it’s not guaranteed. Refinancing depends on your creditworthiness at that time and market conditions. Additionally, there are costs associated with refinancing, so it’s essential to calculate whether the potential savings outweigh the expenses.

The decision to buy a home should be a well-thought-out process that considers multiple factors, including interest rates. While the prospect of rate reductions is enticing, it should be evaluated alongside other crucial elements that shape your homeownership journey. Consulting with real estate professionals at GayReaEstate.com will empower you to make informed decisions, ensuring your homebuying strategy is optimized to your advantage.

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at 303-378-5526 or [email protected]. You can also visit GayRealEstate.com.

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Advice

Gay clone wonders if he’s part of an ant colony

Why do we cede control of our social lives to others?

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(Image by Tamara Luiza/Bigstock)

Michael,

Looking at some photos from my weekends at the beach this summer, it struck me that me and my friends (gay men in our 30s-40s) all pretty much look alike. Practically the same haircut, gym body, swimwear, smile. I almost couldn’t tell who was who.

This got me thinking. I live in the same apartment building as a lot of my friends. We all have similar furniture and watch the same shows and eat at the same restaurants and go to the same clubs and dance to the same music and drink the same drinks and vacation in the same places and work out at the same gym and belong to the same sports leagues and go to the same concerts and have the same routines.

I’m not even sure who makes the decisions about what to do. Something is popular, or becomes popular, and it seems like fun and we’re all doing it. Then it’s on to the next thing. But who is deciding what all of us are doing, not doing, or no longer doing?

I think I’m happy, generally, having fun, but I have this strange feeling like I’m part of an ant colony instead of being an individual.

Is this just the way it is? We find our tribe and then we’re all going through life together like this?

Michael replies:

I think you are facing an unavoidable dilemma that comes with being human. How much do you give up your own individuality to fit in? Put differently, what price are you willing to pay, to live an honest life and be known as the person you really are?

Did you come out—which takes great effort and brings some risks—to live a life that is right for you? Or to live pretty much the same life that your friends are living?

If you are happy doing all the same things as your friends, without even knowing for sure why you’re spending your time (that is, your life) doing these things, no problem.

But you feel like you’re part of an ant colony. So clearly, this way of living doesn’t sit all that well with you.

What would you be doing if you weren’t following the group agenda? How would you cut your hair? Would you go to the gym as much? What shows would you like (or not like) to watch? Where would you vacation? Do you like the drinks you’re ordering?

And some more important questions: What do you deeply care about? What are your values? What are the sorts of things you want to dedicate your life to? Are you living in a way that reflects any of this?

This may be the only life you get. Using it well (in my view, at least) means deciding for yourself who you want to be and how you want to live.

Sometimes people are afraid to be different out of fear that they won’t fit in with their friend group. People often tell me they’re worried they will be criticized or viewed negatively for wanting to do things that are different from what “everyone” likes to do. No one wants to be left out of parties or dinners or vacation plans.

Do you think your friends would still want to spend time with you if you weren’t always on board with “the plan,” or suggested some new ideas for activities that you were genuinely interested in?

It’s possible that if you start developing more of an individual identity, you might fit in less with some (or even all) of your friends. Feeling lonely or unpopular is not fun. You may have to decide if that’s better or worse than putting on a persona to fit in and be accepted.

It’s also possible that you can be more thoughtful about what you do, sometimes say “no” and still be part of your friend group.

Even if your friends aren’t always on the same page, I’m hopeful you can continue to have close relationships with at least some of them. A real friendship should be able to tolerate different views and different interests. How could it be otherwise, when all of us are different in some big ways, even from our closest friends?

Thinking about your dilemma through this lens, you could view sharing more of yourself with your friends and letting them know you better as an invitation for greater closeness.

If you make any moves along these lines, perhaps you will find that some of your friends have similar feelings. You might be less alone than you think.

In any case, you will be choosing a more honest life and the opportunity to be known for whom you really are.

(Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at michaelradkowsky.com. All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to [email protected].)

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Financial

New Workforce Program Aims to Help Expand Economic Opportunity for the Trans Community

Finding inclusion while pursuing sustainable careers.

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Sudhesna Kusulia recently graduated from the internship program as a full-time employee at JPMorgan Chase. Photo courtesy Sudhesna Kusulia.

It was only a few years ago that Sudhesna Kusulia would travel 10 kilometers (about 6.21 mi) from her rural village in India to be able to connect to the internet. 

The community she grew up in, Dangaria Kondh, had no network, electricity or constructed houses. When Kusulia got a smartphone in 2020, she gained a window to another world—one where she was able to explore the aspects of her identity she had suppressed since childhood. 

“I realized I’m not alone,” says Sudhesna, who identifies as a trans woman. “I belong in the LGBTQ+ community. There are millions of people like me living life authentically.”

Growing up, Sudhesna had a love for fashion and Bollywood dancing, and recalls carefully selecting dresses and accessories for her sisters, while secretly wishing she could wear them herself. “The disconnect between my soul and the body I was in was very painful to experience,” she explains. Facing these challenges, Sudhesna struggled with depression throughout her journey to self-acceptance. “From a young age, people started bullying me. I isolated myself. I would just cry in my bedroom, beating the wall with no one to hear my pain.”

Social stigma, barriers to opportunities, and lack of family support often push transgender people to the fringes of the society. Though recent policy changes in India have reduced barriers and provided rights to the broader LGBTQ+ community—India’s Supreme Court decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in 2018—there’s still a long way to go, especially when it comes to advancing equity and inclusion for the country’s gender expansive (transgender and nonbinary) population. 

India is the 2023 JPMorgan Chase & Co.© second largest market worldwide in terms of number of employees, where is has been providing services to clients since 1945. Today, the bank has expanded its presence in India, growing its corporate centers across the country, which act as strategic hubs for JPMorgan Chase.  Here, employees are working at the forefront of cloud computing, machine learning, artificial intelligence, data science, operations and so much more that is used around the world.

At JPMorgan Chase, the Office of LGBTQ+ Affairs is committed to advancing equity and inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community globally. One of the ways the office works to do this is by ensuring all employees and potential employees have an equal opportunity to pursue their full potential and enjoy a fulfilling career. Recognizing both the unique struggles of the trans community in India as well as the immense talent pool that is leading the way for new business and innovation in the region, JPMorgan Chase worked with PeriFerry to create a transgender internship program in 2022. PeriFerry is a first-of-its-kind social enterprise in India that creates upskilling and employment opportunities for the gender expansive community. 

“Across industries, we see that transgender and nonbinary people do not experience equal opportunities to thrive in their careers and achieve sustainable livelihoods,” says Brad Baumoel, global head of JPMorgan Chase’s Office of LGBTQ+ Affairs. “At JPMorgan Chase, we’re committed to creating pathways for the next generation of trans and nonbinary leaders to develop and thrive in their careers.”

Advancing careers in an inclusive workplace

When Sudhesna went to college in 2016 and came out to her parents in 2020, it was a turning point. She finally felt comfortable in her skin and felt ready to pursue her dreams. But while she was ready to enter the workforce, she was worried her identity would hold her back. A friend suggested she connect with PeriFerry.

Sudhesna landed a spot in PeriFerry’s REVIVE program, a residential corporate training program designed for transgender individuals to venture into the workforce with confidence and acceptance, providing training opportunities in professional English communication, digital literacy, financial literacy, aptitude enhancement, resume building, and interview preparation. That’s how she found JPMorgan Chase. 

Through PeriFerry’s REVIVE program, JPMorgan Chase creates dedicated internship roles to gender expansive people across the company’s three corporate centers in India. The 20-week program, inclusive of on-the-job training, is made up of eight weeks of classroom training by PeriFerry, followed by a 12-week internship with JPMorgan Chase. The first and the second cohort had 13 and 11 transgender candidates respectively, who interned across different parts of the business and in operations teams. Interns also were able to participate with the bank’s internal Gender Expansive Council, which organized sessions where employees shared their personal experiences as trans leaders at the bank.

Since the internship program launched in June 2022, it has resulted in the hire of over 20 full-time employees. 

Connecting with the community for support 

While her personal journey has been challenging, and despite rising anti-LGBTQ+ laws and sentiment across the globe, Sudhesna wants to inspire other transgender youth to recognize the beauty in themselves. “It’s a struggle for us. It will take decades before we feel complete acceptance, but it needs to be done. It has to be done,” she says.

According to Sudhesna, the two critical areas that the trans community needs support on are finding steady, respectful employment and a good, safe place to live. Across the globe, JPMorgan Chase supports nonprofits dedicated to advancing economic inclusion for the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community, including transgender youth and elder communities. 

Learn more about how JPMorgan Chase is helping expand economic opportunity for the LGBTQ+ community, and advance equality and inclusion for employees globally.  

Visit our careers page for opportunities.  

© 2023 JPMorgan Chase & Co. All rights reserved. JPMorgan Chase is an Equal Opportunity Employer, including Disability/Veterans.

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