As a proud Northeast Ohio native, a news article out of Cleveland caught my eye today: “Mannequins invade downtown in homeless youth campaign.”

Bellefaire JCB, a Cleveland-based child welfare agency, is drawing attention to the reality of the lives of homeless teens through an innovative public awareness campaign that starts today.

The agency, which is an official participant in HRC’s All Children – All Families project, is placing “life-size teen mannequins” throughout downtown Cleveland. The article explains that the mannequins are in sweatshirts with educational slogans about the experiences of homeless teens.

One of the slogans highlighted in the article is “My dad kicked me out because I'm gay.” The startling reality is that an estimated 40 percent of homeless youth in America are LGBTQ and many of them have been rejected by their families because of their sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression.

We know that family rejection is a real concern for LGBTQ youth. HRC’s survey of 10,000+ LGBTQ-identified youth found that the most-often cited problem faced by survey respondents is parents/family not accepting them for who they are. And a study by the Williams Institute, the True Colors Fund and The Palette Fund found that nearly half (46%) of LGBT homeless youth served had run away from home because of family rejection of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Cleveland campaign will last 30 days and will also feature posters throughout downtown and a video showing people’s reactions to the mannequins. So, if you’re planning an outing to Tower City or Shaker Square, keep your eye out for the campaign and help spread the word.

And if you’re interested in learning more about the experiences of LGBTQ youth who are homeless or in out-of-home care, keep checking HRC’s Blog throughout May. Starting tomorrow HRC will be celebrating National Foster Care Month with a blog series featuring posts from LGBTQ youth, foster families and service providers dedicated to improving outcomes for LGBTQ youth.

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