Here at Levé we’ve been blown away by the work of New Avenues for Youth. The comprehensive services they provide Portland’s most vulnerable youth is impressive and far reaching. When we learned that about 40 percent of Portland’s homeless youth identify as LGBTQI, we wanted to dig a little deeper into the specific services that our nonprofit partner is providing this cohort.
In March 2015, New Avenues for Youth joined forces with SMYRC, Portland’s Sexual and Minority Youth Resource Center. A few great things SMYRC provides their youth:
- Drop-in space - Local activities (think art, music, community organizing) in downtown Portland - Access to counseling, education and peer support - Job readiness preparation
Most important of all, SMYRC provides a safe space, free of harassment, drugs and alcohol, for gender minority youth who are 24 years and younger.
When you take into account that nearly three quarters of the LGBTQI youth who worked with SMYRC last year were homeless, the partnership with New Avenues for Youth was a natural move. This partnership provides stability for SMYRC and allows for shared resources.
The social and community isolation that many LGBTQI individuals experience as a result of homelessness or other causes can have detrimental effects. Another initiative that New Avenues has taken on is SMYRC’s community engagement program that trains service providers, educators and students on how to enhance the safety and accessibility of their service and spaces for LGBTQI individuals. By bringing awareness to employers and the greater community, we can ensure that LGBTQI have a safe space to work and live.
Another exciting resource for the LGBTQI community is Unity House, Portland’s first ever housing program specifically for gay and transgender youth. It’s been almost a month since New Avenues was able to open this transitional home in SE Portland. Young people, 24 years and younger, who identify as LGBTQI, can live in Unity House if they are currently in school or working and are required to contribute ⅓ of their income. Unity House is another step forward in helping homeless LGBTQI youth lead independent productive lives.
New Avenues for Youth is going above and beyond to support and empower LGBTQI youth in Portland. As our 2015 nonprofit partner, New Avenues for Youth will receive all proceeds from this year’s Charity Ball on December 12. We hope you’ll join us for a night of fun in support of this wonderful organization and the life-changing services they provide Portland’s homeless youth. Charity Ball tickets will be on sale soon- follow us on social media to receive updates!