WATCH - Larkin Street Stories: Confronting Hate Speech and Homophobia

By: Joe Thompson

Larkin Street Stories is a three-part video series produced for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The videos feature real-life clients and service providers at the Haight Street Referral Center, which is part of Larkin Street Youth Services in San Francisco, California.

This drop-in center is a really unique and wonderful place. When young LGBTQ people leave home—whether that be to escape violence, because they've been kicked out, or simply because their family rejects their real sexual identity—they often find themselves living on the streets. This can lead to prostitution and substance abuse, and make it extremely difficult for someone to get their lives back on track. But the Larkin Street Drop-In Center is a place where young people can go to find friends and a support network, learn about available resources, and get their lives in order. This web series gives the viewer a direct look at the challenges of homelessness as seen through the eyes of social services providers.

Episode 1 introduces us to Toby, a lesbian mother who seems to run the Center, and Loch, a tatted-up straight guy who came to the cause via the punk music scene. Episode 1 is interesting and lays out some disturbing facts about LGBTQ homeless youth. For example:

  • 20-40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQIQ2-S
  • 69% of LGBT homeless youth have attempted suicide
  • 75% of LGBT homeless youth have a history of substance abuse
  • LGBT homeless youth experience 7.4 more acts of sexual violence than their heterosexual peers

That said, this episode is really about setting down a foundation. Episode 2 (below) shows the Center in action: Toby offers tips on creating a safe and welcoming space for LBGTQ youth, she and the staff discuss handling hate speech between youth, and more.

Research shows that this kind of "solution-based" awareness campaigns are a step in the right direction for LGBT homeless youth and teens. While it would be great to get more story on the young people themselves, we're assuming that would have been too difficult. Featuring minors requires a parental signature, and since these kids have been kicked out of their homes that wouldn't be the easiest task. So the focus here is on a dedicated group of professionals who are working tirelessly to help get LGBTQ youth and teens off the streets for good. It's a short web series that's definitely worth your time.

Watch episode 1 Larkin Street Stories: The Homeless LGBT Experience
Watch episode 3 Larkin Street Stories: Neither/Nor: Working with Transgender Youth

Get more information at the Homelessness Resource Center