At the end of June, we were lucky to welcome Officer Kim Shaw-Ellis, who serves as the LGBTQ and Diversity Liaison for the Kansas City Police Department, into our headquarters for a training session on inclusion. As an organization, a portion of the youth population we work with identify as part of the LGBTQ community, and we want our team to be educated on effective tools to serve our kids. At HALO, it's important that every child feels welcomed at the Learning Center, no questions asked. This includes sexuality. HALO serves youth of all backgrounds, and we desire to serve each child in the best way possible.
Kim shared many statistics with our team, but some of the most important ones are listed below:
- about 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ
- 64.3% feel unsafe at school
- almost 50% of LGBTQ teens reported attempting suicide more than once
- 65.3% of LGBTQ youth have been sexually harassed
Kim also told us about the likelihood of LGBTQ youth being bullied at school, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and many more risk factors, all of which are significantly higher than non-LGBTQ youth. This includes turning to survival sex (prostitution). This population is in very high risk categories across the board. To say that these facts and statistics are disheartening would be an understatement.
Though we cannot change the intolerance, abuse, or injustice our kids face in their daily lives, we can show compassion. We can give our kids a safe haven where they do not have to fear being judged. We can support them when no one else does. We can help one more child spend one less day alone. Trust does not come easy for this population, largely because they have lived in fear and secret for a long time. We want HALO to be a place they can trust in confidently.
This effort also corresponds with our life skill for July: respect. At HALO, we believe everyone deserves to be respected and make it a priority to show that to the youth who come through our doors. By practicing respect ourselves, we strive to set an example for the kids as well.
Kim gave us a list of a few things we can do when serving and providing care for LGBTQ youth that will also decrease the rates of teen suicide. Some examples include support from family and peers, safe and affirming school environments, the presence of organizations like Gay-Straight Alliances, and family connectedness. Others are listening without judgement, validating identities, and advocate for respectful treatment of these kids.
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