After recently reading Dr. Jama Shelton and Dr. Julie Winkelstein’s YALS article (Fall, 2014), Librarians and Social Workers: Working Together for Homeless LGBTQ Youth, I was stunned by the appalling statistic cited in the first line of the article. Although LGBTQ youth make up only 5-7 % of the general youth population, up to 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ. Many of these homeless youth spend long hours in public libraries. Libraries provide a relatively safe haven and allow them access to much-needed information about social services. But libraries have long struggled with how to handle homeless patrons and these teens fear that they will be stigmatized if they spend an inordinate amount of time in the library. Many of them are over 18 years old, which means, in many libraries, they are no longer eligible for young adult services.
So what can librarians do to address this powerful need? The article by Shelton and Winkelstein cites 11 strategies to help homeless LGBTQ youth. One of the most powerful strategies is to be a visible advocate within our communities for LGBTQ youth. Last year, I volunteered to be part of an initiative in my library to reach out to LGBTQ youth in my community. My first step was to contact the high school GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) to make a connection and offer them the library’s support. Through that first connection, I met Logan Sherman, a high school senior and transgender person. I contacted Logan recently to ask if he could share his experience with homeless LGBTQ youth. Here’s what Logan said: