New group home in Oak Cliff will supplement other services offered to LGBT and other youth
Promise House, the Oak Cliff agency that houses homeless teens, will soon be opening a house for 18-to-21-year-old LGBT youth. Promise House CEO Ashley Lind doesn’t yet have a specific opening date, but she said the new house should open sometime over the next month.
While few youth-oriented shelters offer a program like this anywhere in the country, Promise House staff members did visit similar facilities in California to make sure the Dallas agency is providing the programs needed for new LGBT house to be successful.
Nationally, about 40 percent of homeless teens are LGBT. Lind said her agency’s internal survey showed only about 10 to 12 percent of Promise House residents fall into the category. Working on the assumption that Dallas isn’t taking dramatically better care of its LGBT youth than other cities are, the agency chose to take responsibility for that number being so low.
“That led us to believe either our kids are not comfortable in self-identifying upon entry or our services are not conducive to their immediate needs,” Lind explained.
Promise House recently received a grant that will allow the agency to set up the new group home for LGBT young adults, allowing the youth to live there and receive services for up to two years.
“That age was chosen because we can intervene in a way that allows them to be independent and self-sufficient adults,” Lind said. Child Protective Services is often involved in cases with younger clients.
Programs will help the LGBT youth access community resources, find employment and get an apartment. Through counseling, they’ll work through prejudice they’ve encountered and other problems they face.
The grant is for a demonstration project, because there are very few programs like this anywhere in the country, Lind said. The house will be staffed with people with an understanding of the issues LGBT youth face. Counselors will be available for weekly sessions as well as foe crisis intervention. Mentors who have had similar experiences growing up LGBT will be there for the residents to look to for advice and as role models.
Staff members are connecting to medical resources to help youth through situations specific them from HIV prevention or treatment to transitioning for transgender teens, and collaborating with other organizations to offer referrals to other community resources.
“We’ll let them make the decision what they’d like to participate in to fulfill their needs,” Lind said.
In addition, residents of the new LGBT house can take advantage of other Promise House programs.
Education is an important piece for all Promise House residents. If the LGBT residents don’t have their high school diplomas, they can either finish in a local DISD school, the Dallas Can Academy, which is just a few blocks away, or get a GED. Then many Promise House residents continue on to college.
Promise House not only works to help its residents earn scholarships, the agency also has a scholarship program of its own to help the youth continue their education.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2016.