Nonprofits  June 30, 2022

Nelson: Why supporting the LGBTQIA+ community matters 

Let’s face it, inflation is causing the prices of everything around us to skyrocket. While we may notice a larger grocery or gas bill, many individuals are staring down the dilemma of not having secure and affordable housing. This issue is particularly prominent for members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Local businesses have a unique platform to build community and confront these issues directly. 

Chris Nelson
Chris Nelson

At TGTHR, we aim to solve the issue of youth homelessness and address the fact that rising costs and societal factors have displaced many individuals — especially LGBTQIA+ youth. Did you know that roughly 40% of the nearly 4.2 million youth experiencing homelessness across the nation identify as LGBTQIA+, while only 9.5% of the U.S. youth population identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer and/or questioning? 

LGBTQIA+ young people are more likely to experience homelessness, and transgender-identifying youth are even more susceptible to having no home. The Trevor Project reports that “28% of LGBTQ youth reported experiencing homelessness or housing instability at some point in their lives.” With such a high number of homeless youth, it begs the question, why do these individuals experience such large rates of displacement, and what can the Boulder community do to help?

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The National Network for Youth argues, “family conflict is the primary cause of homelessness for LGBTQ+ youth, which is disproportionately due to a lack of acceptance by family members of a youth’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” While being kicked or forced out of their home may be the primary cause of displacement, there are many other factors, such as poverty, aging out of the foster care system and a lack of sufficient housing programs. Youth face even more challenges when it comes to a need for emergency shelter because most programs are geared toward adults.

Businesses are in a unique position to spread acceptance and dispel negative stereotypes about LGBTQIA+ individuals. Through inclusive hiring practices and instilling company values that encourage individuals to freely express and identify themselves, businesses are able to not only hire the best talent but also create customer loyalty. Most people would rather support businesses that are genuine in their support of social good than not.

A diverse work environment will also allow people to be exposed to others from all walks of life. Many individuals fear that they will lose their job over their gender or sexual identity. In fact, a Harvard report revealed, “in the workplace, 22% of LGBTQ identifying people say they have personally experienced anti-LGBTQ discrimination when it comes to being paid equally or considered for promotion, and 20% report this discrimination when applying for jobs.” Since a lot of the fear and hatred toward the LGBTQIA+ community is rooted in a lack of knowledge and understanding, increased exposure to different people and new ideas can help increase workplace diversity, leading to better decision-making and problem-solving.

Another major way for companies to get involved is through visible displays of acceptance. Representation is incredibly important. Showing support could be displaying LGBTQIA+ friendly stickers in the windows, partnering with affirming charities, featuring these individuals in ad campaigns and ensuring the leadership team reflects the type of environment you’re trying to create. It is crucial that organizations mean what they say because consumers are starting to see through companies that support causes only with words and not actions. 

Creating spaces for people to thrive as individuals ultimately creates a stronger and healthier community, a more collaborative work environment, and a more successful business. 

Chris Nelson is the CEO of TGTHR, a nonprofit business dedicated to ending youth homelessness.

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