Alex Blaze

More homeless shelter discrimination

Filed By Alex Blaze | June 14, 2007 8:29 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: John Garon, LGBT homeless, Richard Thebo, shelters

John Garon, a Colorado homeless man, says that he was kicked out of a homeless shelter because of he's gay. From the Coloradoan:

"[Shelter director Rev. Richard Thebo] said 'I don't allow homosexuals to use these facilities,' " Garon said. "I was blown away ... To be put out for something I can't change has profoundly impacted me."
The Shelter director says it went down differently, but I'm really looking for the difference:
Garon was asked to leave after he "hit on" another man at the shelter, which led to a fight, Thebo said.

Staff and other clients were "very put out" by Garon, Thebo said, because he'd flaunt his sexuality.

Sound familiar? "Flaunting your sexuality", I've found, can mean anything to these people, including hiding it as best you can but others spreading rumors about you. And who says that you should even have to hide? I wish some of these people would just turn around and apply the same standard to see how heterosexuals flaunt their sexuality. Oh my word, if we queers were as open with our sexualities as straights are with theirs, some people would flip their lids.

But it doesn't even matter, according to Thebo:

However, even if Garon had not gotten into the altercation, he still could have been denied a bed at the shelter simply for being gay, Thebo said.

Gays and lesbians are allowed to eat meals and take showers at the facility, Thebo said, but are not allowed to sleep in the shelter.

"I will not let them exert their sexuality here," he said. "Men have to sleep next to other men (in the shelter)."

So better to make sure that some of the men have to sleep in the street.

Now this is a private organization that doesn't receive any government money, so legally they don't have to accept anyone they don't want to. But this does highlight the plight of many homeless LGBT people. The city of Fort Collins has only two homeless shelters. Garon, after losing his job because of an extended medical stay, got kicked out of the other shelter, and now has no place to stay. Really, so many people are two steps away from the street in this country if they get sick, and the thin, thin safety net that keeps many people off the street is even thinner for the queers because of less family support, smaller incomes, a larger chance of being uninsured, and discrimination at homeless shelters like this one.


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Alex, thanks for continuing to cover this very important issue.

I am curious as to what LGBT outreach is being done at homeless shelters in Indiana, if any. Have you come across any info? Are staff members trained to assist LGBT homeless and are there any LGBT staff members at the shelters? I've tried researching this but haven't come up with much which basically tells me the LGBT homeless are most likely receiving inadequate services in Indiana.

A. J. Lopp | June 15, 2007 2:43 PM

Donna, I am sorry to say that I would guess that this is an entire area that has not yet been addressed by Hoosier GLBT's. The silver lining is that ... if your interest and passion is up to it ... this is a golden opportunity for you to show your talents at being a Hoosier leader!

There are two groups I would suggest you research, one is local and one is on Pacific coast.

From living in L.A., I know about Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services (GLASS), which has served the Los Angeles area for over two decades. They seek to address the needs of young GLBT's regarding substance abuse, need for foster care, scrapes with the law --- and homelessness. Their website is at: www.glassla.org and I'm sure you'll want to study it more thoroughly than I had time to. In the Internet age it will be easy for you to contact them and use them as mentors --- and I'm sure they'll be thrilled to help a similar organization get going in the Midwest.

Locally, I suggest you get involved with Indiana Youth Group --- go to www.indianayouthgroup.org. They are very similar to GLASS except that they focus more on "normal" issues of adolescent development, such as social skills, dating skills, character development and such. But they have encountered the homeless problem among GLBT youth, and maybe you can get a new program going quickly using them as the umbrella organization.

Both of this groups are "youth" groups, but I would encourage you and our entire community to address GLBT homelessness in general, at any age. The problems with being gay/lesbian and homeless, whether during adolescence or mature adulthood, are legion. So many of the shelters are run by ultra-conservative Christian groups, and ... need I say more?

I befriended a formerly homeless man that I have now been dear friends with for seven years (he is still in California) and it has been one of the most enriching and heartwarming experiences of my life.

I'd love to help in this field myself, but time and energy do not allow it for me at this time. I'm focusing on some self-employment goals, and I need to work at preventing my own homelessness someday.

Good Luck, Donna!

A. J. Lopp | June 16, 2007 5:39 PM

Addendum: According to the Gay and Lesbian SmartBrief, a GLBT email news summary service, the Lambda Legal Education and Defense Fund is looking for an attorney to specialize on their "Youth Out Of Homecare" project --- so I gather they must have substantial caseload of homeless young GLBT's with legal issues to address. Website: www.lambdalegal.org