Sunday, January 24, 2010

News: LGBT homeless youth to get new shelter in Vancouver

Fundraising underway for new queer shelter in Vancouver BC

Chantell Joseph says she was ostracized for being a lesbian when she stayed at a downtown Vancouver shelter Photo CTV News

A few months ago, Chantell Joseph was evicted from her apartment after she says her roommate skipped out on rent.

She wound up at a downtown Vancouver shelter. But instead of getting help, she says she was ostracized for being a lesbian.

She shared a room with four other women who wouldn’t speak to her. And, she says, some of the staff wouldn’t talk to her either.

”I couldn’t be 100 percent myself,” she said.

Paul Donovan, chair of the board of the Metro Vancouver Dream Centre Society, which provides counseling and other services to homeless people, says Joseph’s story is not unique.

That’s why the society is trying to raise money to build a gay-friendly shelter.

”Homeless people already have a hard time as it is, and then to further have to stay in the closet and keep their sexuality in check makes it awkward for them,” he said.

A 2000 study found that between 25 and 40 percent of homeless youth in Canada identified as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered. Experts say it’s because their families can’t accept their sexuality, so they run away.

”Sadly with youth they don’t have the financial resources or support so they can’t find a roof over their head, so they end up on the street,” said Richard Kramer, distress services director at the Vancouver Crisis Centre.

So far the Dream Centre has raised $40,000. They are hoping to raise $15 million.

The centre would likely be built in the eastside of Vancouver or near the West End, Donovan said.


With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Norma Reid

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