Celebrate Pride by Making Santa Monica a Refuge for LGBTQ+ Youth Fleeing Oppression

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We’re over two-thirds of the way through “Pride Month” and by now a lot of the headline-grabbing furor is passed. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ badly mishandled on-off-and on again Pride Night has happened. West Hollywood has held its parade. You can still see rainbow lights and banners, but for the most part the parties are over.

While public displays of affection and acceptance are important, especially in the days of creeping fascism against being weaponized against our LGBTQ+ friends, family, and neighbors; it’s not enough.

This appearance of welcoming and openness are belied by a common refrain among reactionaries when discussing the population of people experiencing homelessness in Greater Los Angeles. “Most people aren’t even from around here!” and “Why don’t we just send them home?” In the case of a liberal city such as Santa Monica, many of the people asking that question are likely to own a shirt that says “love is love” with a rainbow background, or a “Love Wins” lawn sign.

If California wants to lead the country, and Santa Monica wants to lead California, then we have to do more to open our doors to the people fleeing cruel families, unfriendly governments or some combination of the two. We have to do more for our homeless neighbors and to reduce the costs of living in California.

According to the non-profit True Colors, who advocates for LGBTQ+ youth, 40% of all youth experiencing homelessness are LGBTQ+. Anecdotally, those numbers are even higher in California as youth fleeing religious conservatism and state governments that are weirdly obsessed with looking at their genitals head our way. Yes, it’s great that the climate in California is so welcoming that people would rather live on the streets here than deal with oppression in the states of birth. But that’s a low bar we can surely exceed.

Here’s what we have to do. Loudly and proudly declare that we need more funding for shelters. More funding for wrap-around services. The creation of a 24/7 intake system is a big step in the right direction. That it comes at the cost of reducing the number of beds available is a big minus. (And let’s not even talk about the lead trial balloon that Santa Monica can build affordable housing in Palmdale to meet state mandates.)

The folks at CalYIMBY have argued for years that the way to reduce homelessness is to build more housing, especially more affordable housing. They argue that amore abundant supply of housing will drive down costs for everyone and make it easier for homeless service providers to match people who are ready to move into permanent housing with units. . The local advocacy group Abundant Housing has a laundry list of legislation that people can endorse if they believe in this vision.

Another important way Santa Monica should become the place it aspires to be would be the creation of an LGBTQ+ Center somewhere in city limits. The Los Angeles LGBT Center has programs designed for LGBT youth that are experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity. However, the nearest location is…not actually near Santa Monica. Even if it’s through a partnership with the County, or the City of Los Angeles with Traci Park’s office or the City of Malibu; working with one of the many non-profits working in this space for a permanent LGBT center on the Westside would be a huge step forward.

And it certainly would help more people get off the streets, be they natives or new “And it certainly would help more people get off the streets, be they natives or new residents, than the armed security like that proposed by the DTSM board ever will.

Damien Newton
Damien Newton
Damien is the executive director of the Southern California Streets Initiative which publishes Santa Monica Next, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog San Francisco, Streetsblog California and Longbeachize.

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