How you can help support Louisville’s homeless youth LGBTQ+ population? Hint: Drink up

By Brent Schanding

During the month of June, Proof on Main at 21c Museum Hotel Louisville will donate all proceeds from the sale of its Sweet Evening Breeze mocktail to the Sweet Evening Breeze LGBTQ+ shelter, which is expected to open as early as this winter.

Proof will also host a drag brunch at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 29 to raise funds for the LGBTQ+ facility, which is expected to be the first of its kind in the state.  

Queer KY reported last month that Sweet Evening Breeze Inc. will soon open an administrative office at Fourth and Oak streets ahead of the anticipated debut of its shelter.

Maurice Gattis, chair of the board of directors for Sweet Evening Breeze Inc., told Queer KY that organizers are still scouting suitable sites for the shelter in the Russell neighborhood after abandoning previous plans to locate the facility in the Plymouth Settlement House at Chestnut and 17th streets.

Gattis said it’s premature to put a price tag on the project, but said the homeless shelter could provide temporary accommodations for up to 20 LGBTQ+ residents between the ages of 18-24. Staff at the center also plan to provide mental health services and case management for residents, he said.

Gattis, an assistant professor at the Kent School of Social Work at the University of Louisville who’s researched and published academic papers on the topic of homelessness, health disparities, adolescent risk behaviors and other LGBTQ+-related issues for more than a decade, said LGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented in the homeless population.

While LGBTQ+ individuals make up roughly 5 percent of the total youth population, they account for an estimated 25 percent of homeless teens in Louisville, according to Melissa Raley Kratzer, director of development at Coalition for the Homeless, which relies on anecdotal data from local partners since the organization does not officially track the sexual orientation of its clients.

“That equates to roughly 225 LGBTQ+ youth and young adults who experience homelessness in Louisville and are served through our system each year,” Kratzer said. “We know that these young people often endure strained familial relationships, violence, sex trafficking and severe trauma.”

A 2012 study conducted by the Williams Institute at UCLA Law found that 46 percent of homeless LGBTQ+ youths ran away because of family rejection of their sexual orientation or gender identity; 43 percent were forced out by parents and 32 percent faced physical, emotional or sexual abuse at home.These young people often are at a greater risk for substance abuse, depression and suicide.

“Housing helps mitigate a lot of these risks,” Gattis said.

But Gattis and Kratzer agree that more resources are needed for the LGBTQ+ homeless community.

“Currently, [the coalition has] only a few shelter beds for young adults (18-24 years old), and they are in a room that is not entirely segregated from the general adult population,” Kratzer said. “We need far more youth-centered shelter beds, especially those that are LGBTQ+ inclusive.”

You can find more information about the planned Sweet Evening Breeze shelter on its Facebook page and donate to the cause here.

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