Five years ago, the dream to create an alliance of advocacy for gay youth was just that, a dream. Today, it’s a realized one in the form of The Alliance for GLBTQ Youth.
While the Alliance is headquartered in North Miami, most work is done in the field as transportation can be difficult for youth, and the staff wants to make sure they to feel safe. It takes the lead in the organization, namely in programming and fiscal matters, and is comprised of Family Counseling Services, Jewish Community Services, Pridelines Youth Services, Safe Schools Florida, and the Yes Institute. Each organization has its own strengths and specialties to help serve gay youth in a complete way.
“We are of the belief system that not any one organization can actually serve the holistic needs of the community, and so we must do this together in partnership,” said Carla Silva, executive director of the Alliance. “We really have the most invested and the integral LGBT organizations working together.”
On Sept. 28, the Alliance celebrated with BOOM! The Q Affair, a gala in honor of the agency’s five years and looking forward to more success in the future. And there has been much to celebrate.
“I feel really proud and confident about the work that we are doing and that was our first time ever appreciation, gala, celebration,” Silva said. “That was kind of our coming out and look, we’re actually doing what we said we were going to do and we’re doing it really well.”
A new addition to the Alliance’s repertoire was the creation of the ChangeMakers summer youth leadership institute. About a dozen youth ages 15 to 24 applied and were accepted to take part in the seminar for nine weeks to learn more about systems of oppression, legislative advocacy, lobbying, the history of LGBT issues, and more. Each participant then created a project for them to go forward with.
The biggest initiative by the Alliance this year was tackling youth homelessness — as much as 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT. Partnering with Citrus Health Network, which provides a place for youth to stay as the Alliance works to find permanent housing and other solutions with whatever problems the child is facing. So far they have helped 10 kids without actively advertising the services as they finalize details.
The Alliance was also a part of a pilot program in August to count homeless youth in Miami-Dade County, with volunteers spreading out on Miami Beach, downtown, and beyond to find out how many youth are homeless. The official count will be conducted on Jan. 23, 2014, headed by the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust and the Miami Coalition for the Homeless. Volunteers are needed.
During the count, the staff hopes to find out how many homeless youth identify as LGBT — the information will be voluntary. At least one person on each team will be LGBTQ so that an advocate will be available should a youth need help.
“We don’t yet have a real, I think, read on the true scope of homelessness in our communities,” Silva said. “There’s some data that says whoever is counted in the youth count, it’s only just 10 percent of the true homeless population.”