While everyone can agree that homelessness is a problem, what many people don’t realize is that a large portion of the homeless population is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth (aged 25 and younger). While LGBTQ youth only make up roughly 7% of the population in the U.S., this same demographic accounts for 20-40% of the homeless youth population.
Lost-N-Found Youth is a grassroots organization dedicated to fighting homelessness for LGBTQ youth in Atlanta. We love the work they do, which is why we chose them as our first charitable partner.
But L-N-F is also a near and dear cause to me. Before I worked on MailChimp’s deliverability team, I was homeless for a short period of time after separating from the military. While I am not LGBTQ, I was a young adult at the time, and had never considered what it meant not to know where I would end up at the end of the night. I was also extremely lucky in that I had an amazing supporting cast of friends—a lot of these young people don’t have that.
L-N-F provides a variety of services, ranging from vocational counseling and GED and college placement testing prep to housing placement and referral to other agencies. There is even a 6 bed house located in Atlanta. In the near future, they are upgrading to an 18 bed house located in Midtown Atlanta, which was donated by the congregation of Saint Mark’s United Methodist Church. (Thanks, y’all!)
They even have a thrift store that sells everything from furniture to wedding dresses, and the proceeds support their street outreach, youth center, and housing programs.
Perhaps even more importantly, L-N-F provides a safe space for their clients to come and talk. Most of these people are in this situation because they have no support system. Of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer/questioning homeless youth surveyed at L-N-F, 59% say they were thrown out of their homes by family. For transgender homeless youth, that number rises to 69%. This is more than double the national average.
While some are locals, many come from places far and wide, spending their last $20 on a bus ticket to Atlanta in the hope that their situation will somehow improve upon arrival. I have met and gotten to know several of them. Their stories are nothing short of amazing. In fact, Rolling Stone published an excellent profile of 2 Lost-N-Found clients in 2014.
Here at MailChimp, we believe in empowering the underdog. These kids are some of the biggest underdogs out there, which is why we teamed up with Odd Pears to lend a helping hand. Even better than having the freshest feet around, what you pay will go straight to L-N-F.