Perspective: LGBT Youth Homelessness? Not The Time To Argue

(Spectrumbot) #1


I recently learned that an unofficial student group at Andrews University has been blocked from fundraising on campus to support a regional LGBT youth homelessness organization. (Read more via Blue Nation ReviewWindy City Times, and Raw Story.)

I’ve heard for years about the differences in how heterosexual and LGBT youth experience homelessness and youth services, but I wanted the facts. So I searched organizations that focus on or have reported research on youth homelessness in the last 10 years, including Urban Peak, the National Coalition for Homelessness, the Center for American Progress, the US State Department, and the US Department of Health and Human Services.

These are the Facts

The stats: LGBT youth are a disproportionate subset of the homeless population in the U.S., where Andrews University is based. They represent 20-40% of the homeless youth population: more than 320,000 people every single year (some report much higher numbers based on US government research).

For the majority of these youth, family rejection and forced eviction because of gender or sexuality is one of the most common reasons they end up on the street. Said more simply, these youth end up on the street without a safe place to sleep because their families reject and discard them. (CAP, 2010)

Nearly 60% of LGBT homeless youth report having experienced sexual violence including sexual assaults. Around 30% of heterosexual homeless youth report the same. That’s a ratio difference of 2:1—for every single heterosexual homeless youth who experiences sexual violence, two LGBT homeless youth do. The National Coalition for the Homeless and Urban Peak, Colorado both report that LGBT homeless youth were over seven times more likely to experience sexual violence. Seven times more likely.

The US State Department’s 2014 Trafficking in Persons report notes that LGBT youth “are at particularly high risk of being forced into prostitution,” and that “cumulative effects of homophobia and discrimination make LGBT persons particularly vulnerable to traffickers who prey on the desperation of those who wish to escape social alienation and maltreatment” (PDF).

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Family and Youth Services Bureau surveyed grantees in 11 states (MA, FL, TX, AZ, CA, DC, NY, WA, NE, MN, and Chicago, IL where Project Fierce is based), and found that more than 51% of the youth being served had been asked to leave their homes by a parent or caregiver. Thirty percent of these grant-supported youth identified as LGB, 6.8% identified as transgender, and an additional 4% identified as something other than heterosexual. That report is from October 2014.

LGBT homeless youth complete suicide at 3 times the rate of heterosexual homeless youth. For every heterosexual homeless youth who completes suicide, three LGBT homeless youth do (Urban Peak, 2015).

Those are the facts.

All youth merit care.
All youth merit care.
All youth merit care.

Some of these youth are heterosexual. Some are LGBT. Though this shouldn’t matter an iota, it does.

Heterosexual and LGBT youth don’t have parallel experiences in their homes, in the foster care system, or with public or private services. These two groups have a different quality of experience and merit a different quality of support.

What Andrews Can Do Now

An Andrews University administrator has told AULL4One: “If a way can be found to serve LGBT homeless youth through an organization that more fully reflects the University’s mission and the stance of our denomination (which clearly calls for exhibiting compassion toward LGBT persons), let’s explore that.”

Yes, let’s.

When we look at the stats, the need becomes clear. I don’t know how AULL4One intends to move forward, but here’s my suggestion to Andrews University as an alumna of one of its sister schools: leave AULL4One to its work and start your own.

Andrews University has the opportunity to respond to the objective need here, to help “all” youth, including LGBT youth. If it genuinely wishes to do this, and it has said it does, there is nothing in the world stopping it.

Let’s see the university match whatever amount AULL4One raises independently, and send the matched contribution to whichever other organization it approves. Unless that other organization discriminates, LGBT youth will still be disproportionately served, because LGBT youth are disproportionately homeless.

Just as Paul, Silas, John Mark, and Barnabas did twice the work apart that Paul and Barnabas did together, perhaps Andrews University’s refusal to assist AULL4One so far can produce twice the impact the original proposal would have.

While the university decides how to contribute, I fully support AULL4One in acknowledging the subset of youth that’s disproportionately harmed by the status quo.

We’re accountable for seeing God’s image in every human being, regardless of creed. All youth merit care. Some youth are homeless, and some homeless youth are also LGBT and have disproportionately poor outcomes. Even if the facts could be argued, this is not the time to argue back. It is time to confront reality and act.

A Gap Between Values and Practices

‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’

‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’—Matthew 25

As Adventists, we say we believe children and youth have “the right to a loving and stable home where there is safety and freedom from abuse” and “the right to adequate food, clothing, and shelter” (Well-being and Value of Children, 2000). We say we consider “the nurture and protection of children a sacred trust” (Nurture and Protection of Children, 2010).

In 2010, the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference Executive Committee also declared that “actions to reduce poverty and its attendant injustices are an important part of Christian social responsibility”:

Seventh-day Adventists join the global community in supporting the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals for reducing poverty by at least 50 percent by 2015. In furtherance of this, Seventh-day Adventists partner with civil society, governments and others, working together locally and globally to participate in God’s work of establishing enduring justice in a broken world.

As followers of Christ we engage this task with determined hope, energized by God’s visionary promise of a new heaven and a new earth where there is no poverty or injustice. Seventh-day Adventists are called to live imaginatively and faithfully inside that vision of God’s Kingdom by acting to end poverty now.” —Global Poverty, June 2010

And so here we are. It’s 2015 today. The UN’s goal is unmet, but the cause is not lost. A group of Adventist students has stepped up to serve youth more vulnerable than they are: these students are partnering with others to meet a very practical challenge in their sphere of influence.

How will you help?

AULL4One leaders have just announced a stretch goal of $5,000 to support a regional youth homelessness service organization. Help them blow past this goal and impact the youth in their community!

UPDATE: This evening, Andrews University administrators e-mailed a statement on this fundraiser to campus faculty members, staff, and students. This statement acknowledges some of the facts outlined above and notes that we don't have to agree to protect or care for one another. Yet the statement neither supports the ongoing fundraiser nor announces a complementary one that meets its requirements of "primary alignment [with] the University's mission and its faith commitment."

And so the AULL4One fundraiser remains the only active campaign addressing youth homelessness that involves Andrews University students. It runs until April 7 and is a great opportunity to practice the value of compassion.



Keisha E. McKenzie writes from Clarksville, Maryland. This article originally appeared on her website, and is reprinted with permission.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Andrews University LGBT Bake Sale Dustup Reveals Adventism's Issues With Homosexuality
(Steve Mga) #2

The Rebuke[s] of Jesus to the Pharisees was not about what they did.
Jesus even told to the people TO DO what the Pharisees. said to do.
WHAT the Rebuke of Jesus was to the Pharisees was WHAT they DID Not Do.
They Did Not Show Mercy.

Would Jesus Rebuke the Andrews Administration for NOT Showing Mercy?
That some paragraph or paragraphs in the man-made 28 said something and so that PREVENTS the Administration from Allowing others who want to show Mercy, from showing Mercy?

How ODD! And Jesus is supposed to be the Very Central of our Beliefs, of our Actions based upon the Centrality of Christ. Again, How Odd!!

(Sherlock1) #3

Blocking them from fundraising does not seem to make sense, however fundraiser descriptions should give full disclosure of what they are fundraising for and givers can make their own decisions.
But, I suppose any company or entity should be able to have the right to choose who or what they will support.
There is some very sad and disturbing information presented in the blog. So many confused youth living in a hopeless state of life.

(Robert Jacobson) #4

Andrews University right now:

(Carolyn Parsons) #5

I still don’t know what the problem is with an organization that “may have a perceived LGBT advocacy role”. Isn’t that what the whole thing is about, helping people means advocating for them, accepting them as they are to provide services they need.

The problem is that many LGBT youth are not safe in many shelters. This is why having organizations that deal with LGBT people in particular are so important. An affirming shelter is a safe shelter.

“Frequently, homeless LGBT persons have great difficulty finding shelters that accept and respect them. LGBT individuals experiencing homelessness are often at a heightened risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation compared with their heterosexual peers. Transgender people are particularly at physical risk due to a lack of acceptance and are often turned away from shelters and in some cases signs have been posted barring their entrance.”


(Phillip Brantley) #6

The easiest way for students at Andrews University to promote awareness and compassion for homeless LGBT youth is to organize a campus chapter of an organization that has a mission that is in alignment to an acceptable degree with the values and ideals of the University. By becoming an official club at the University, the campus chapter could avail itself of the assistance of a faculty adviser and get a little bit of funding from the University. And by virtue of being an official club, confidence would be instilled in potential donors that responding to the club’s fundraising pleas is a safe thing to do.

I find the University’s statement to be dispositive. If I were a University administrator, I would be inclined not to permit any unofficial student group to conduct fundraising on campus. It appears to me that the administrators at the University in an extraordinary spirit of goodwill, cooperation, and respect for the students involved are willing to allow this particular unofficial student group to conduct a fundraising campaign on campus for homeless LGBT youth under the auspices of Campus Ministries so long as the funds are remitted to an organization that is alignment to an acceptable degree with the values and ideals of the University. What is wrong with that? I think the University has been unfairly maligned. The students involved should quickly pivot and treat this episode as a teaching moment.

(Bill Garber) #7

Not at all. Even remotely. Though truly humorous.

Andrews University has stated clearly that it will allow fundraising that supports LGBT homeless youth. What is says it is rejecting is on-campus fundraising for an organization that advocates for same sex marriage or any other group that advocates in opposition to positions promulgated by the Seventh-day Adventist church.

Do click the link to the University statement with regard to this matter.

The question at hand is whether the university should allow members of the university community to raise funds for groups that advocate directly against voted beliefs or official church statements.

The church does not need the protection of the University, nor the endorsement of its students. It will be wonderful as the University comes to see itself more clearly in this light. It would be especially wonderful were the church to offer an official church statement protecting the University and its students in such matter.

There is, keep in mind, a great difference between supporting the church and protecting the church. The University will do well in supporting the church, and should. And supporting the church always involves supporting its youth in coming to understand through experience what God’s will for the church is and may be going forward. It is why the church invests in Andrews University and its many schools. Protecting the church is God’s responsibility and promise.

(Robert Jacobson) #8

RawStory is covering the bake sale prohibition:

The original Blue Nation Review story shares some of Eliel Cruz’s email exchange which really doesn’t put AU in a good light:

Windy City Media Group has an excellent write-up:

(Robert Jacobson) #9

And yet it does move.

What is says it is rejecting is on-campus fundraising for an organization that advocates for same sex marriage or any other group that advocates in opposition to positions promulgated by the Seventh-day Adventist church.

The problem is that the university refuses to explain what specifically it is about the organization it objects to. Eliel Cruz’s email to the administration is quoted by Blue Nation Review:

Again, respectfully, what exactly are the “perceived” conflicts? I’m getting directed to the student handbook without actually being given tangible reasons to this situation. What about project fierce’s work is a “conflict” with the mission of Andrews University?

I mean, that’s a pretty reasonable question that deserves a straightforward response.

(Elaine Nelson) #10

Are both the church and university confused about what their position should be?
From what has been presented, the entire story is confusing.

(Robert Jacobson) #11

That’s what these students have been trying to do for a long time. Spectrum has covered this effort at PUC for quite some time now.

(jeremy) #12

young adulthood is a time of ardor, heroic vision and boundless energy and imagination…i think it’s difficult for this group to perceive that older people who don’t hop on board just like they want them to are something other than obstructionist…it’s a pity more effort can’t be directed towards finding an organization that aligns with andrews university’s long-standing raison d’etre and mission, or creating one that does…a $5,000.00 fundraising goal for a worthy cause distributed by an agency recognized by the university is a relative pittance that one imagines could and would be speedily realized…

but without the university’s support, this revised goal appears to be having little difficulty in being achieved, meaning neither aull4one nor the university are likely to feel any incentive to come to common terms…

(Clayton Whetmore) #13

AULL4One leaders have just announced a stretch goal of $5,000 to support a regional youth homelessness service organization. Help them blow past this goal and impact the youth in their community!

(Dee Roberts) #14

Here are three links, the first is to the group that the student’s proposed to work with. This group is focused on LGBTQ homelessness. The second link is the group that the university administration asked them to consider, it is focused more broadly and does not specifically address the significant issue of LGBTQ homelessness. The final link is to an opinion piece written and published the SDA Kinship webpage (this article). It does an excellent job of laying out the challenges and causes of LGBTQ homelessness.

The AULL4ONE proposed group.

The AU Admin Proposed Group.

The other article published on SDA Kinship’s page.

The first two frame the conversation between AU4One and the AU Admin, the third piece provides a potential positive path and the reasoning that lead the students to select Project Fierce.

(Kevin Paulson) #15

Addressing the basic needs of the needy, including the homeless, should take place without regard to the belief system or lifestyle of the one in need. I have ministered to the homeless myself, and neither I nor any others who worked with me ever asked those we helped about their theological beliefs or personal practices.

Seventh-day Adventist congregations and institutions can minister to homeless LGBT youth, and any others with essential needs, without compromising our Biblical convictions regarding homosexual practice or any other issue. The same Bible which condemns homosexual behavior exhorts us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the homeless. And nothing in the latter commands restricts such benevolence to those who share our doctrinal or moral tenets.

(Bill Garber) #16


You are right that the question deserves an answer. And while the author may have at one time been directed to the student handbook, the University has in its statement been much more direct and specific with regard to its position. It is unfortunate that the Editor here did not report the University’s position.

The University has stated that it will not lend its support through allowing fundraising on campus for organizations that it determines are advocacy groups in opposition to denominational positions made clear in two links it provided to official church statements regarding homosexuality and same sex unions…

That said, the University has now caught itself up in what appears to be the position of of defending church leadership at the expense of its own students.

It has also seemingly put itself in the position of apparently saying that student advocacy equates with University advocacy, whatever the topic.

These are awkward positions for the University, and it is not likely the University will double down on either position.

(Bb Yeaton) #17

Andrews is appealing to its students to find a more appropriate vehicle to deliver aid to the homeless LGBT youth, rather than coalesce with an organization like Fierce. Who can guarantee, for example, that if AU helps finance a donation to Fierce that some of those monies won’t go towards renting the next venue, likely featuring drag, drinks and debauchery, such as “Tainted Love” or others one can see advertised on their facebook? AU is finding out that if these activists don’t get everything they want, they will turn…in a very public way.


(Mark Carr) #18

I absolutely love the way the author used the Church’s own statements in this paper. It is very rare for us to actually attend to what we have said formally through the General Conference. Well done!

(Carolyn Parsons) #19

Yet I don’t know of a single SDA ministry that deals with homeless LGBT youth. Just because the church can do it, doesn’t mean it is doing it or even has the desire to do it.

(George Tichy) #20

You may have misunderstood Kevin’s statement.
I read it as him ‘giving permission’ to the SDA congregations to do it it they want to… :wink: