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Prism Youth Community Hosts Discussion About LGBTQ Homelessness

prism panel

Bloomington’s Prism Youth Community hosted a panel discussion Tuesday night about the challenges homelessness poses to the LGBTQ population.

According to the Williams Institute, as many as 40 percent of homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Evelyn Smith is the Prevention Programs Coordinator at Middle Way House and says the LGBTQ population is also more likely to experience sexual violence – both inside or outside of a shelter.

"And it tells us that what we’re doing in our shelters to set culture, to set an atmosphere is not working," Smith says.

The panel said a lack of cultural diversity training is an issue at some Bloomington shelters.

Prism Youth Adult Leader Sam Harrell says if caseworkers don’t interact properly with members of the LGBTQ community it can foster an unsupportive and unsafe environment, encouraging similar behavior from others staying at the shelter.

"I’ve heard cisgender and heterosexual clients quote caseworkers in their defense of threatening the lives and bodies of queer people who are homeless," Harrell says.

The Prism Youth Community hopes that by discussing issues of LGBTQ homelessness the city will start to address some of the challenges facing the community.

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