Post submitted by the George Burton, Outreach VISTA / Volunteer Coordinator of Sasha Bruce Youthwork.
In the days leading up to MLK Day of Serviceon January 20, HRC and its partners, including Sasha Bruce Youthwork, are working to increase national attention about LGBT youth homelessness through service activities in over 15 cities.
Stay tuned to the HRC Blog throughout January as our members, supporters, and allies share their stories about why they are participating in MLK Day of Service and the work that we are doing together.
Sasha Bruce Youthwork (SBY) is DC-based non-profit that has served at-risk, homeless, and runaway youth for nearly forty years. We manage the only youth-specific emergency youth shelter in Washington, DC and in the neighboring Prince George’s County in Maryland. In addition to our multiple residential programs, SBY offers a myriad of community services from HIV testing to community gardening to workforce development. With over twenty programs in all, we have a proven record of implementing an effective model for meeting the ever-changing needs of our community.
Our approach at Sasha Bruce Youthwork is competency-based: our counselors are trained to not diagnose pathologies, but to identify and build on the strengths of each young person. Most of our clients, particularly youth that identify as LGBTQ, are not comfortable in their own skin. Our staff addresses this through a combination of individual and family counseling sessions. We help them build self-acceptance and self-worth, and later a sense of pride and responsibility towards their family and community. LGTBQ clients can be apprehensive upon entry to one of our residential programs because it is not a program designed exclusively for LGBTQ youth. However over time, the client will realize that each of our homes is place where everyone is encouraged to accept others, starting with themselves. As the program manager of the Sasha Bruce House Emergency Shelter puts it, “We remind every youth that they matter.”
To give an example, meet David*, an eighteen-year-old homeless youth who was squatting in an abandoned apartment building before entering Promise Place, our emergency youth shelter in Prince George’s County, MD. David identifies as an LGTBQ youth and had traumatic experiences being targeted by his foster parent when he was thirteen, but he felt no such stigmatization during his stay at Promise Place. David was introduced to each resident and the living quarters not by a staff member, but by a fellow young resident - just one of the methods used to create a sense of family amongst the young people. David quickly was accepted by the other residents, and through counseling, was able to obtain housing at a transitional living program and a job as a lifeguard at nearby fitness center. He is also planning to attend classes at Prince George’s Community College and later transfer to a university to study psychology. Case manager Tiffany Tatum reports that David still visits Promise Place on Thursday nights to talk to former and current residents. Tatum says that everyone in the program acts like “one big family,” and it’s not only the staff, but the residents that “counsel and guide each other.”
“We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now.” That is just one of the many powerful quotes by the great Martin Luther King Jr. that inspire us to continue our mission of empowering youth and strengthening communities in the DC metro area. It also reminds us of the amazing work done by members of the Human Rights Campaign. The HRC’s tireless work fighting for the basic civil rights of LGBTQ Americans has brought us closer to reflecting the words and vision of Dr. King. With each new state that legalizes same-sex marriage, we get a greater sense of being in the “same boat.” That sense of unity is also increased when Americans engage in community service, which is why the MLK Day of Service is such a fitting way to honor him. We are proud to have HRC partner with us for the Martin Luther King Day of Service 2014.
*Name changed to protect identity
This January 20, please join HRC and Sasha Bruce Youthwork in the fight against LGBT youth homelessness. To join this event in Washington, D.C., please visit www.hrc.org/MLKDC
And to find an MLK Day of Service event near you, visit http://www.hrc.org/campaigns/martin-luther-king-jr-day-of-service