Lack of family support, job insecurity and discrimination are just a few challenges that LGBTQ youth have faced during the ongoing pandemic.
“When you look at members of the LGBTQ community, especially with our trans youth, you have a really high rate of suicide because of a feeling of lack of belonging,” said Blaise Caudill, chair member for the Arizona Democratic Party LGBTQ Caucus.
Throughout COVID-19, the community has become disproportionately affected causing some concern for how they will be helped.
However, with programs such as One n Ten, a non-profit organization providing aid for LGBTQ youth, the community is able to come together and have a safe haven to express themselves.
“If you have safe spaces, it allows everyone the opportunity to learn, to grow and to realize their full potential,” said Gina Read, Program Manager for One n Ten.
Through One n Ten’s Promise of a New Day Housing Program, youth from ages 18 to 24 are able seek shelter. Individuals also have access to employment and education coaching, mental health resources, and case management services.
Read has been a part of the One n Ten program for 20 years, and has seen firsthand an increase in positivity for the community. However, many challenges still remain such as homelessness.
In Maricopa County, roughly 1,000 youth have been forced to live on the streets, and within that 40 to 45 percent of them identify as LGBT.
“LGBT kids are vastly overrepresented when it comes to homelessness,” Read said.
In order to maintain shelter and resources, One n Ten agreed to pay for 10 units in the housing program, which totals roughly $100,000 a year, which is received through donations.
“It is far less expensive to have a kid housed, then to have them on the streets where they run up other bills like emergencies, hospitals and trespassing,” Read said.
Because of COVID-19 concerns, One n Ten was forced to transition to a mostly online platform.
However, the program remains active in creating new ways to reach out and provide online communication as much as possible.
“We developed a discord platform, and we saw an increase of attendance. We also started doing gaming and streaming two nights a week on Twitch,” said Sebastian Blackwell, Satellite Program Manager for One n Ten.
As a result, One n Ten has been able to reach 700 youth, since October, despite the obstacles of COVID, according to Blackwell.
Although One n Ten members have been specifically impacted by the pandemic, LGBTQ individuals as a whole remain impacted.
“Allowing people to express themselves freely, and openly, and accepting them for that even if it makes you uncomfortable is really important,” Caudill said.
Individuals such as Read, Caudill and Blackwell are actively breaking down the barriers that LGBTQ individuals face by providing them the space and resources needed to thrive.
For those who need help during this difficult time, One n Ten and the Arizona LGBTQ+ Community and Friends Facebook page provide a plethora of resources and support.
“No matter what, despite what it might feel like sometimes, you are never alone,” Caudill said.