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    Open House: Host Homes for LGBTQ Homeless Young Adults

    By Andrea Shorter–

    As the still-too-early-to-tell Democratic presidential primary race heats up into a slug fest going into the third set of debates (September 12 and 13 in Houston), and low polling candidates begin to slough off the crowded debate stage while public and congressional sentiments to commence impeachment proceedings against the worst president in U.S. history begin to edge towards the “yes, please” column, let’s take a bit of a break. As they say, “We’ll resume our regularly scheduled programming after this short break.”

    During this break, I want to introduce an idea and opportunity that could do some real good for some real people real soon, and for many, frankly not soon enough.

    Homelessness in San Francisco has been roundly established as an overwhelming crisis and top priority urgency to be addressed by all residents. Recent point-in-time counts suggests that the homeless population has increased by nearly 2,000 more people over the last two years, bringing the estimate to nearly 10,000 homeless residents today. Of those homeless, approximately 20 percent are people under age 25. And of those young adults between 18–24 experiencing homelessness, at least half them identify as LGBTQ.

    As the SF LGBT Center noted:

    “Here in San Francisco, LGBTQ youth make up about half of the unsheltered youth population. This includes youth who are on the street or in shelters each night. Factors that contribute to youth being unsheltered include family rejection, conflict, poverty and abuse. Lack of community support can further drive homeless LGBTQ youth to migrate to San Francisco.”

    Among the variety of efforts to provide shelter, housing and other much needed services to assist LGBTQ identified homeless young people provided by other organizations such as Larkin Street Youth Services in the Tenderloin and Haight Ashbury, an innovative model and opportunity to engage concerned citizens has emerged: host homes.

    Host homes is a model that has existed in San Francisco for several years, but has been grossly underutilized to assist LGBTQ identified youth. Cities including Minneapolis, Baltimore, Louisville, Seattle, Rochester, San Jose, Santa Cruz and others have led the way towards implementing a successful community response to youth homelessness.

    A Call to Action Concerning Host Homes

    Host homes is a program for unsheltered LGBTQ 18–24 aged young adults placed within a community-based member’s residence for a period of three months to one year. During this stay in a host’s home, youth receive wrap around and case management services.

    Months prior to former Mayor Ed Lee’s untimely death, I had the honor of assisting him, the Mayor’s Office of Transgender Initiatives and other community leaders and service providers by marshaling the coordination of a coalition of community-based organizations to develop a host homes initiative in San Francisco for LGBTQ homeless young adults. After a successful application through the SF Department on Homelessness and Supportive Housing for funding from HUD and other city resources, the San Francisco LGBT Community Center (the Center) is now set to lead this pilot program model.

    The Center provides weekly orientations for prospective hosts to learn more about Host Homes. Interested parties can find out more about the host homes program, orientation and how to apply at

    You can also email:

    One of the overwhelming challenges regarding homelessness is the feeling of helplessness, frustration and impatience that many concerned individuals experience. How do I help? How can I meaningfully contribute to solutions? The LGBTQ liberation movement has risen to the occasions of community crises with innovation, compassion and urgency. Host homes is not intended as a primary source or avenue towards engaging community residents to help our most vulnerable. It is one way, one promising model, which is proving to be successful across the country.

    I am humbled to have been a small part of helping to actualize this effort. I truly believe that it can work, and that it will help. On behalf of those unsheltered youth in need, thank you in advance to those who will respond to this call to action.

    Andrea Shorter is a Commissioner and the former President of the historic San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. She is a longtime advocate for criminal and juvenile justice reform, voter rights and marriage equality. A Co-Founder of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, she was a 2009 David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.