Why I Have Pride in my Hometown

Los Angeles is known for its radiating weather, exquisite culinary tastes and diverse mix of people. As a native Angeleno, I have always been proud of my hometown – from its pop culture activism to its sociopolitical history, Los Angeles is a model for American progress. However, despite its strides, the “city of angels” and its surrounding neighborhoods still face several challenges that don’t get much attention today. To get a deeper understanding, I recently visited the LA LGBT Center to learn more about an issue that is near and dear to my heart: LGBTI homelessness.

When I was first made aware of the of the incredible work that the Center does in my hometown, I was absolutely starstruck. Through their grassroots network of supporters, activists and volunteers, the Center is working each and every day to end a serious human rights issue that has long affected the Los Angeles community. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reminds us that everyone is born “free and equal in dignity and rights” no matter who they are or who they love. While glamour, beauty and progress seem to characterize Los Angeles culture from the outside, LGBTI homelessness is a devastating issue that’s often unseen, and is yet to be solved.

Today, California’s rate of homelessness is 33 per 10,000 residents, which is the highest in the country. Among this demographic, 40% identify as LGBTI youth. Luckily, organizations like the LA LGBT Center are taking measures to put this staggering human rights problem to an end. Since 1969, the Center has been working to provide the necessary resources for LGBTI homeless youth. Through education programs, housing options and medical services, the Center is a well-known leader for LGBTI activism and inclusion in Southern California. As the largest LGBTI organization in the world, the Center is also working to advance LGBTI rights across the United States, setting a gold standard for human rights that every community can learn from.

In 2018, thousands of volunteers across the country joined the fight for LGBTI equality by participating in phone banks, protests, legislative visits, and voter canvassing events. Through efforts led by the Center, youth activists and senior citizens alike joined hands to advocate for the rights of the LGBTI community. In an era where LGBTI rights in the United States are still under threat, CEO Lorri L. Jean quotes: “It’s our obligation, our duty, to do much more than simply hunker down and weather the storm. We must BE the storm!

On a local level, the Center faces its own challenges when it comes to advancing its work. While new resources for housing projects have been made available, there is very limited funding for the volume of requests that the Center receives. Through its education programs, career preparation and youth development initiatives, the Center seeks to provide LGBTI homeless youth with a range of supporters to assist them in transitioning to stability and self-sufficiency.  Many LGBTI homeless youth in Los Angeles have not completed their high school education and/or have had negative experiences in the classroom due to discrimination, homophobia, or placement at multiple schools during foster care. Additionally, few LGBTI homeless youth have held steady jobs, and fewer have received the training to develop required job skills. The need to provide a continuum of services and resources is dire, and the Center is hoping to mitigate these pressing challenges moving forward.

Looking ahead into this year, the Center is proud to be celebrating its monumental 50th anniversary. When the Center was founded in 1969, LGBTI rights were not widely acknowledged. But the small group of volunteers who banded together to help members of the LGBTI community in Los Angeles did not realize they were changing the world. Their efforts to uphold fundamental human rights in their community became what’s known today as the world’s largest LGBTI organization with nearly 700 employees, thousands of volunteers and supporters, and many more thousands of youth whose lives have been transformed.

As we conclude International Pride Month, we must continue to advocate for the LGBTI community and support partners that are working to advance human rights for all. Today, the LA LGBT Center, like the United Nations, is working to ensure no one gets left behind. Learn more about their amazing work.