The LGBTQ Community Engagement Project is an initiative of the Your Way Home public-private partnership to end and prevent homelessness in Montgomery County. The project is funded by a grant from the HeathSpark Foundation. The project is designed to further understand and bring awareness to the unique needs of LGBTQ individuals experiencing extreme poverty in Montgomery County.
Interpreting and addressing the needs of LGBTQ youth, adults and seniors has been a challenge for Your Way Home since its inception.
One major constraint to gathering data and information on LGBTQ individuals is that HUD does not support sexual orientation as a data element in its Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) and cautions against providers asking program participants about their sexual orientation. In addition, the current Your Way Home Coordinated Entry process, or “front door” into the county’s homeless crisis response system, does not ask specific questions about sexual orientation. (Your Way Home uses the evidence-informed VI-SPDAT screening and SPDAT assessment tools.) Your Way Home does collect demographic information on self-identified gender; However in 2018 Your Way Home only served one individual identifying as transgender.
Recently, preliminary research conducted by the Center for Social Innovation for Your Way Home's Phase I Equity Evaluation suggests that Your Way Home policies and services may not be culturally relevant and responsive to the needs of LGBTQ individuals. National data provides a baseline for measuring impact. According to the True Colors Fund, "LGBTQ young people are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than their non-LGBTQ peers." According to the National LGBTQ Task Force, "nearly one in five transgender people have experienced homelessness. Among those who have accessed or attempted to access homeless shelters, one quarter reported being denied admission because of their gender identity."
The Your Way Home LGBTQ Community Engagement Project will build on the work of the current Your Way Home Equity Evaluation, leverage existing Your Way Home system and partnership mechanisms, forge new alliances with cross-sector system leaders, and engage people with lived experience in meaningful ways that lead to transformational and systemic changes that will advance a more equitable and inclusive system for all.
The Your Way Home LGBTQ Community Engagement Project will advance the vision of Your Way Home to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring in Montgomery County. The project is designed to reflect the overarching values and principles of Your Way Home, including:
· Equity as a Sustainable Strategy to End Homelessness: Applying an equity lenses to our work in an effort to proactively combat, in meaningful and authentic ways, the impact of historical and ongoing institutionalized discrimination in housing.
· Housing first: Housing first is the philosophy that people need a safe, stable place to sleep before they can take advantage of the community, health, and financial services that they may need to prevent future housing instability.
· Client choice: Clients are provided options and recommendations that guide and inform their choices, as opposed to rigid decisions about what they need.