The homelessness situation in San Francisco cannot be underestimated. It is at the top of citizen and tourist dissatisfaction surveys, and it contributed to a popular mayor being denied a second term. And it helped to elect a Marina supervisor into the mayor’s office. The central goal of the forum was to search for answers to help the queer youth in the Castro and the Haight neighborhoods.
On March 10, 2009, there was a well-attended forum on homelessness coordinated by neighborhood activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center in San Francisco. Panelists included service providers, and to the surprise of audience members accustomed to all-adult panels on homelessness, a queer youth was also seated at the head table.
It was revealed at the beginning of the evening that more than 30% of the youth being helped at various agencies identify as queer. And there is a large number of questioning youth. It was mentioned that queer youth face extra abuse and also transgender and intersex youth also find it more difficult to access services.
Panelists included Larkin Street Youth Center’s Lochlan McHale, queer youth JayR Rosemon, the San Francisco LGBT Community Center’s youth program coordinator Beck, Coalition on Homelessness executive director Jennifer Friedenbach, Haight Ashbury Free Clinic’s Dr. Mike Toohey, Homeless Youth Alliance director Mary Howe, and San Francisco City Homeless Outreach Team social worker Brenda Meskin. Each provided a past history of problems and their insights of what could be done to alleviate the suffering that is being endured by young people who want to develop into happy employed citizens. And the service providers described the programs available to the youth to educate them, find jobs, receive health services, and search for housing.