Homelessness has long afflicted the American population, specifically in San Francisco, California - hotspot to some of the most widespread poverty in America. However, some groups have been immensely affected by unemployment and severe poverty during this pandemic. The LGBTQ community has long faced discrimination and increased hardships but the tangible effects of this bias has only been proven in recent studies. Estimates from the National HRC show that “LGBTQ youth comprise up to 40 percent of the total unaccompanied homeless youth population.” Unfortunately, they are not the only minority group facing increased homelessness rates - “other young adult populations experiencing disproportionate rates of homelessness include Black and African American youth, Hispanic non-white youth, unmarried parenting youth, youth with less than a high school diploma or GED certificate and youth reporting annual household income of less than $24,000.”
When minority groups are the foremost victims of poverty and homelessness, it creates a cycle of poverty and hardship for people of those ethnicities and socioeconomic statuses. Homelessness can have a lifelong effect on these groups’ mental and physical health. Those experiencing severe poverty are exposed to higher rates of sexual abuse, drug dependency, and social discrimination. When faced with situations as dire as homelessness, it is hard for this population to rise out of their circumstances especially with societal stigmas about hiring low-income, minority youth.
Fortunately, several projects and initiatives have been striving to remedy the scourge of homelessness facing LGBTQ minorities. On par with these motives, the Trevor Project works to de-stigmatize the LGBTQ community by contacting policymakers and funding programs that encourage inclusiveness. They ensure that foster care systems have a strong, non-discriminatory code of ethics that accommodates youth despite sexual orientation or racial identity. In addition to this, the Covenant House, one of the largest providers of care for youth experiencing homelessness in America, has a mission statement ensuring that all their houses are safe and welcoming for minority youth experiencing homelessness. Kevin Ryan, CEO of Covenant House International, stated “This is not complicated: we are called to love unconditionally and with absolute respect all young people facing homelessness.” Although it is a devastating truth, LGBTQ and minority youth disproportionately experience homelessness, and we should all work to support and de-stigmatize these groups to stop the cyclical abuse they face.
Photo taken by Melia Robinson/Business Insider.
“Nowhere in San Francisco is wealth disparity more prevalent than the Tenderloin.” With these words, Robinson of Business Insider reminds us of the acute class divide in the Bay Area- while some were fortunate enough to transition easily from in-person to technology based jobs during COVID-19 lockdowns, others did not have that opportunity. In fact, unemployment in California rose from rates of 3.9 in January to 16.4 in April and May. June has seen a slight dip with a rate of 14.9. While rates may steadily slow in coming months, marginalized populations in San Francisco will not see the same increase of job opportunities. In order to bridge this gap, the nonprofit Code Tenderloin hopes to help provide long term employment to the formerly incarcerated, homeless, and similarly disenfranchised communities.
Founded in 2015, the organization has a myriad of helpful services, all focused on training for job readiness. One facet is a curriculum that “covers technical skills, soft skills, interview prep, resume creation, 1-on-1 mentorship and off-sites led by some of the best tech companies in the Bay Area.” Another is the “enrollment in Public Defender's Clean Slate Program that reduces and expunges criminal records.” Code Tenderloin’s partnerships with local businesses, major tech companies, and others connects participants with long-term job opportunities. The nonprofit affirms that in order to work, a collective effort is required across several organizations; ones that provide housing, clothing, etc. Code Tenderloin is partnered with St. Anthony’s foundation, which contributes free clothing and a tech lab, Compass Family Services, which has family shelter and childcare services, Tech Credit Union, with financial literature and free checking, and Glide, which provides case management and family services.
As of 2018, “About half of the 300 people that Code Tenderloin has accepted into the program reported finding employment after graduation. Of those newly employed, 35% remained in the same job 12 months after graduating from Code Tenderloin.” In order to change the narrative, a coalition of ventures is necessary. Companies need to take a chance on disenfranchised applicants, and we as a society must recognize that change and rehabilitation are possible, despite past mistakes.
Black Lives Matter, which involves countless petitions, a coalition of social media efforts, and an estimated 15 million to 26 million protestors, has become one of the largest movements in American history. Activists continue to pioneer for long-overdue civil rights through their respective contributions- one pivotal way being the creation of nonprofits concentrated on racial inequality or the growth of black communities. While these organizations provide a welcome service, it is important to also recognize nonprofits that aided black lives long before the movement made headlines. One example is BlackGirlsCode, which has focused on introducing girls of color to computer coding and STEM since 2011. The organization plans to “provide African-American youth with the skills to occupy some of the 1.4 million computing job openings expected to be available in the U.S. by 2020, and to train 1 million girls by 2040.” This ambitious endeavor not only addresses a severe lack of diversity in technology-based jobs, but allows for the closing of gender gaps in typically male-dominated roles.
Additionally, BlackGirlsCode acknowledges the digital divide and its harmful cyclical effects on communities of color, especially in locations across America where technology is a necessity. In order for the organization to build digital literacy, they must have devices to begin with. Their website writes that “sadly, San Francisco’s digital divide falls along the same racial and social fault lines that characterize so many of society’s issues. White households are twice as likely to have home Internet access as African American houses.” In a diversified space such as San Francisco, disadvantaged, often minority children, must have devices and the bandwidth to use that technology in order to succeed. Without the same opportunities as their peers and classmates, social and economic mobility becomes close to impossible. When nonprofits such as The Bridging Tech Charitable Fund supply devices, while BlackGirlsCode teaches minority children how to use said technology, communities are elevated through the efforts of society as a whole.