Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL), a non-profit organization, in partnership with
The LGBTQ youth can stay in the housing for two years till they’re able to find an independent home.
For over 30 years, SMYAL has been supporting LGBTQ youth in the district. The organization’s staff is available round the clock, providing after-school programs, mental health counseling, training youth for jobs, and other courses to improve life skills.
SMYAL’s programs director Adalphie Johnson said more than 2,500 local LGBTQ youth have benefited from their services since the opening of the new housing program in the district in 2017.
“Most of the young people that we work with in our drop-in center, we have not met most of their parents,” said Johnson.
Tyreem Fosque, a 25-year-old old gay man, who was thrown out of his elder brother’s home when he was 19, had to later find shelter in a friend’s car.
Fosque was taken in by SMYAL as part of the first cohort to stay at the housing. Early this year, he had the distinction of being the first graduate from the housing program.
“Fosque is one of the most amazing self-advocates I’ve ever met. He knows what he wants, and he knows how he’s going to get it, and he’s not scared to reach out to the people around him to say, ‘Will you help me do this?’,” said Jorge Membreño, director of youth housing in SMYAL.
Close to half of homeless youth in D.C. identify as LGBTQ, according to SMYAL. About 2 million young people experience homelessness in the U.S. every year, and 40 percent of them identify as LGBTQ, a study conducted by the Williams Institute at UCLA Law in 2012 said.