Calling All Intersectionalists: Open Your Homes!
Illustration by Chris Larson
I have only one concrete reason for writing this op-ed, and that is to ask for your participation in strengthening Minnesota’s shelter and housing options for LGBTQ+ youth who are experiencing homelessness.
In a nutshell—let’s share our homes, in whatever ways we define and create home. But let’s do this in a way that Black feminists have been telling us all along: with an unrelenting commitment to intersectionality and collective liberation. This means not only showing up for the queer youth whose family has kicked them out, but also for the trans youth whose family is experiencing homelessness, or eviction, or incarceration, or separation, or the many other injustices disproportionately meted out to people who have intersecting race, class, gender, ability, and other identities.
Many of you are already doing this, of course. Many of you come from communities that have always done this, as a survival strategy and/or as a practice rooted in culture, resilience, kin, and shared humanity. There’s nothing new about sharing resources and taking care of one another.
But in our mostly white-led and heteronormative nonprofit world, we aren’t particularly good at recognizing and uplifting the many ways that folx show up for each other, especially within BIPOC and poor communities. Policy makers, funders, and service providers usually get to define what’s “healthy” and “appropriate.” More often than not, “solutions” are implemented from the outside and volunteers are galvanized—well-intentioned, mostly white, caring people whose charity mindset and savior complex go unchecked. This does nothing to change the root causes of displacement and homelessness (brought to this land by colonization) and it often ends up punishing survival and/or cultural practices. It’s not surprising, then, that many marginalized communities don’t trust our agencies or the systems to which we are connected.
At Avenues for Homeless Youth, where I’ve had the privilege of learning and growing with our host home programs for many years, we work hard to understand how we’re both complicit in this as well as how we can and must be agents of liberation. And we can’t do that without being in and of community.
If you are already sharing your homes with youth or if you are a youth living with caring elders/community members—are there ways that we can support you, work with you, and make that arrangement more sustainable and more joyous? And if you aren‘t, but want to in the near or distant future, let’s connect.
Let’s be creative and brave together.
To learn more about Avenues for Homeless Youth‘s community-based programs, contact Rocki at rsimoes [at] avenuesforyouth.org or call 612-969-8771.