SAN DIEGO — A new effort to help the homeless population get back on their feet is underway in San Diego, but this project is particularly focused on the LGBTQ+ youth.
The announcement was made on Thursday by the San Diego Housing Commission.
This homeless shelter would be a first for San Diego as it will focus on young adults who identify as LGBTQ+. The center was selected to spearhead this project, which is still under development.
“Being unsheltered is not easy, being LGBTQ in the world is not easy,” said Fernando Lopez.
He says like so many members of the LGBTQ+ community who come out at a young age, he was pushed out of his family’s home. He was on the streets for a long time.
“I know I’m here today because someone gave me a roof over my head and someone took me in,” added Lopez.
San Diego pushing for change by opening its doors to its very first homeless shelter for LGBTQ+ youth.
A $1.6 million dollar project, which was recently approved by the San Diego Housing Commission, will link several entities, including the San Diego Youth Services.
“Services should look like a wellness center. These are places where young people are getting out of harm’s way and out of exploitation, needs met and doing it in a trauma informed supportive way,” said San Diego Youth Services Director, Steven Jella.
He says while the concept is needed, LGBTQ+ youth don’t have to wait to get a helping hand.
“We have a number of drop-in centers that we operate with our partners across the county called ‘Our Safe Place.’ They are centers for young people to come in and get gender affirming and supportive devices as well as access to mental and behavioral health,” added Jella.
About 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ= according to the commission. The 45-bed shelter doesn’t have a location yet, but plans to operate around the clock.
Today, Lopez is the director of San Diego Pride and says these resources are crucial and saves lives.
“The hope is to put as many roofs over peoples heads who are LGBTQ, take care of them so they can not only survive but thrive,” said Lopez.
Jella says they are currently recruiting staff as well as volunteers for the two facilities, which are expected to open sometime this year.