Trauma-informed, Resilience-focused Approach to LGBTQ+ Homelessness
Youth who make their way to Covenant House do so bearing complex histories of trauma. Rejection by family and society put LGBTQ+ youth at greater risk of exploitation, trafficking, survival sex, physical violence, and suicide.
LGBTQ+ youth may avoid interacting with agencies that serve homeless youth for fear of rejection or discrimination. That’s why Covenant House prioritizes a safe, inclusive environment for all youth, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity. One-third of the young people we serve identify as LGBTQ+. We stress the importance of using a client’s chosen name and pronouns with all staff and volunteers. Doing so is in itself an act of suicide prevention, according to recent research by University of Texas.
Many Covenant House staff members attend trainings by True Colors United. We sponsor events such as Pride Prom to encourage our young people to embrace all aspects of their identities. Our youth attend community Pride events, and we tailor our wellness programs to meet the specific needs of our LGBTQ+ youth.
In partnership with Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg — specialist in adolescent medicine at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and medical director at Covenant House Pennsylvania — Covenant House is developing a trauma-informed, resilience-focused approach to supporting and engaging the youth in our houses. Our approach, informed by the Reaching Teens model, trains our staff in core competencies such as understanding trauma, stress management and coping, restoring a young person’s sense of control, and reducing shame and stigma, among others.
This approach, together with the awareness we have raised among staff to ensure a welcoming, affirming, and safe space for LGBTQ+ youth, distinguishes Covenant House as a provider of shelter that addresses the whole person, with all of that young person’s experience and potential.
LGBTQ+ Homelessness and Diversity: All Are Welcome Here
As noted above, most LGBTQ+ youth access services from non-LGBTQ+-specific agencies, according to True Colors United and The Williams Institute. At Covenant House, we pride ourselves on the diversity of our youth and the staff who welcome and serve them. We are not a niche shelter that welcomes only youth of one gender, one orientation, one race, or one class. All are welcome here and all are received with absolute respect and unconditional love.
“I’m a human, someone with feelings and goals. [At Covenant House] they want to help me reach those goals.”
Je’Brial Lee, resident Covenant House Georgia, as published in “Life with Gracie,” Atlanta Journal Constitution
At Covenant House, diversity and inclusion don’t end at intake. Our youth share dormitories, dining tables, and classrooms. They share in the same opportunities for entertainment, self-improvement, worship, exercise, counseling, field trips, creative workshops, and other activities.
We strive to build inclusion at Covenant House. Our residents are, indeed, a microcosm of the surrounding society. As our youth progress toward their goal of independent living, we hope they will take with them a lifelong, deepened understanding and respect for one another.