LGBTQ homeless youth and the Supreme Court ruling
The Supreme Court just ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry anywhere in the United States. That’s quite the kickoff to the Twin Cities Pride festival taking place in Loring Park this weekend. This annual celebration often focuses on the positive aspects of being part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community. While indeed there’s a lot to celebrate, I personally hope — as an Aeon employee and someone who identifies as LGBTQ — that now is also a time to think about related social and racial justice issues in our community. I recently connected with an Aeon resident who lives at St. Barnabas Apartments and have been thinking a lot about housing disparities for LGBTQ youth.
A disproportionate number of youth experiencing homelessness in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ. They’ve often run away from or been kicked out of their homes due to conflict surrounding their sexual orientation or gender identity. I’m proud that two of Aeon’s properties, Archdale and St. Barnabas Apartments, were some of the first affordable apartment homes in the country established to support youth experiencing homelessness. While I don’t have exact numbers, I know there are residents at both properties that identify as LGBTQ. One of those people is Xavier, who has lived at St. Barnabas for 2-1/2 years.
Xavier grew up on a farm in a tiny town 50 miles outside of Indianapolis. His family moved to Minneapolis for job opportunities, and after his parents broke up, he chose to live with his dad in order to attend Southwest High School. It was days before he turned 17 that he ended up homeless. His dad caught him with his boyfriend, and the next day, Xavier woke up on his mattress which had been pulled into the hallway outside their apartment. His clothes and some books were packed and thrown nearby, and all of his electronics were gone. His dad then changed the locks.
With no family support, Xavier struggled to find decent stable housing. For awhile, he bounced between various houses of friends. He didn’t know when he’d have to move next. And while he faced many challenges, he graduated from high school just a few months behind schedule.
After months of instability, he connected with Aeon’s nonprofit partner, YouthLink, and has been involved with their programs ever since. Through YouthLink, he learned about Aeon’s St. Barnabas Apartments. He’s trying not to get too comfortable there because he wants to move on to have his own place where there aren’t so many rules. He’d also like more space, especially to do his artwork, and he’s looking forward to having a pet again.
Xavier is also working to start college — he hopes to double major in anthropology and archeology. Additionally, he works to give back to the community. He’s a mentor every Wednesday at the Teen Tech Center at the Central Library in downtown Minneapolis. Xavier says he’s happiest when he’s helping other people.
As for the Pride festival this weekend, Xavier will be there as a volunteer. He knows firsthand how isolating and challenging it can be to identify as LGBTQ and homeless, so he wants to provide support and resources for others who might be facing a similar situation. He’ll be answering questions at the YouthLink booth, and has been working on the float for YouthLink’s Out! Group. I’m inspired by Xavier’s work in our community, and grateful that he’ll be sharing critical information during the celebratory events of Pride.
Alicia Cordes-Mayo leads communications and marketing efforts for Aeon
Creating community: an Aeon resident’s perspective