Thursday, July 10, 2014

The issue of homelessness for queer youth

Symposium: a drinking party or convivial discussion, 
especially as held in ancient Greece after a banquet.  What?

An interesting piece found at the Patheos Symposium ...

I read Deacon Kandra all the time, he's one of Patheos best - and really, a news source for me since he often posts about the stuff I'm interested in, he's a Deacon, and I've become a big supporter of permanent Deacons, and he's friends with Lesley Stahl, whom I've had a crush on for years.

Patheos is conducting a Symposium in advance of the Synod on the Family this October.  I think it's a great idea.  Interestingly, before or during the Council - I can't recall when at the moment, Dorothy Day went to Rome to pray and fast for the Council Fathers (I'm sure she did some writing as well).  In contrast, rather than going to Rome to pray and fast, it looks as if Patheos people have opted to hold their own online Symposium on the the Synod, and what is offered so far is very good.

That said, Kandra's post, "How do Christians respond to the transgender issue" caught my eye, his post leading me to an offering from Kelley Cutler,  "a social worker and advocate for the homeless working and worshiping in the Archdiocese of San Francisco".  Her piece, Pastoral Care for the Queer Person: Questions for the Synod is provocative and well worth the read.  A couple of points from Cutler's article:

The first thing Jesus did, in seeking to save souls, was to acknowledge who was on the margins, and then reach out in love.
How can the Church follow Christ's example? What do queer people want and need to feel welcomed and supported in the Church where they may find him? How can the Church support queer people already in the pews, let alone the many on the street? What do they hope for from the Church, and how is the Church failing those hopes, thus contributing to a sense of hopelessness? 
These are some of the questions that will hopefully be seriously entertained during the Extraordinary Bishop's Synod for the Family, in October. Research suggests that social support is an essential factor for the physical and material well being of all marginalized people; everyone has a need for community, and a connection with others. For the spiritual well being of queer people, spiritual support is needed as well. Jesus showed us time and time again the importance of reaching out to the social outcasts by meeting them first where they were, and inviting them along. He first made genuine connections with them, and his love radically changed their lives.
I agree.

There is a lot there in the essay which goes beyond pastoral care and social outreach, which involves the social economic structure of society as well.  There are many forms of homelessness, and it isn't limited to LGBTQ youth, although I'm pretty sure queer youth have been ever present.

San Francisco has always been a gay mecca, as Kelley points out, but it has always been a mecca for a great variety of dropouts.  Haight-Ashbury in the 1960's for instance.  Many people simply showed up in San Francisco and environs and crashed wherever they could.  Los Angeles too.  In the 80's and 90's, Seattle was the place to go.  Squatters* flooded the city.  Punks, anarchists, queers - it is a blended culture.  Hence, there are many and varied reasons for homelessness among youth.  It is not simply an LGBTQ issue - it is much more complicated.  I trust Kelley Cutler understands that, being a social worker and advocate.  The inclusion of LGBTQ youth in the mix is in a sense, part of the anarchist cocktail.  Having said that, I'm not trying to invalidate what Cutler said.  As she points out, it is important to listen - recognizing, welcoming and caring for the person.

Closing churches and convents?
Find a new use for them.

The Church needs to do more.

We hear that all of the time.  Cardinal Dolan said it, adding he didn't know what doing more would entail.

These are the challenges that inspired the saints and founders of religious orders, religious societies, and religious people to go out into the streets to care for those most in need.  So the people who are calling out the Church need to realize they are the Church.  No one is stopping anyone from caring for the marginalized, one on one, after the example of the Good Samaritan.  I wonder if we are too dependent upon institutional care, organizational commitment, rather than taking personal responsibility?

So many people seem to believe they need a degree to do any sort of work for the Church or the poor.  So many people attracted to religious life think of contemplative life as opposed to serving the needs around them, completely unaware that the active life can be as contemplative as cloistered life.  The Missionaries of Charity demonstrate that.  But we do not have to be consecrated religious to follow a vocation.  Jean Vanier and L'Arche is a wonderful example of that.  In NYC there was Covenant House, but the founder took advantage of those he was supposed to be helping.

You don't need a costume or a habit or a degree or a title to help the poor, the marginalized.  The Church needs to do more?  You are the Church - we are the Church.

Kelley Cutler did link to an interesting site on welcoming people into the Church, it is called Landings:
Landings reaches out to inactive Catholics and empowers laity to welcome them home. "In parishes, groups of active Catholics join together with those who are returning. Over the course of 8-10 weeks, group members listen to one another tell their faith stories."
"The key to Landings is compassionate listening," Father Moran says.
Without politicking, I might add.  It sounds like an excellent form of "discipleship" to me.  I especially like this:

Landings IS NOT:

  • The "saved" welcoming the "sinners."
  • People pressuring others to return.
  • Full of answers to teach the unenlightened.
  • Blind to the hurt the Church may have caused someone... - Source

Anyway.  If you say the Church has to do more - then maybe you (we) are being called to do more.  We really are our brother's keeper.

Kelley Cutler
See how cute she is
Spiritual Friendship people?

*Dutch sociologist Hans Pruijt separates types of squatters into five distinct categories:
  1. Deprivation based — i.e., homeless people squatting for housing need
  2. An alternative housing strategy — e.g., people unprepared to wait on municipal lists to be housed take direct action (as discussed in the preceding paragraph)
  3. Entrepreneurial — e.g., people breaking buildings to service the need of a community for cheap bars, clubs etc.
  4. Conservational — i.e., preserving monuments because the authorities have let them decay
  5. Political — e.g., activists squatting buildings as protests or to make social centres

More stats for LGBTQ homeless youth here.


  1. This was entertaining for me to read (much better than the comment section on my post!) and cracked me up (and blush a little too) at the end with your comment on my picture! I took that pic after a little old lady came up to me after Mass and said… “You always dress so cute for Mass. You look like a little boy!” She was so sincere and meant it as a compliment… which is how I took it, but it still made me chuckle.

    I would like to clarify some points. I am an advocate on homelessness, not technically an LGBTQ advocate. I was asked to write about the disproportionate amount of LGBTQ people experiencing homelessness because it hasn’t really been an aspect discussed when exploring outreach to queer folks. This is the LAST subject I want to be discussing in the Catholic forum, but it’s what’s before me. I may be a ‘Catholic anarchist’, but I’m not into mixing cocktails.

    Like you mentioned, homelessness is an extremely complex subject. I would challenge your generalization of San Francisco… it’s no longer the San Francisco of the 60’s and 70’s. The massive gentrification taking place is crippling the poor and marginalized in our City. Here’s a good article about it.,0 As you can read in the article, our shelters are packed with seniors and people with disabilities… and that’s once they are able to get a bed. As of a couple weeks ago our family shelter had 217 families on the waitlist… which equals a 7+ month wait to get into a shelter…. not housing, a shelter. These are all populations advocates on homelessness (me) are fighting for. At the same time, 29% of our overall homeless population identifies as LGBTQ, so that factor is requiring attention.

    But homelessness isn’t just the case in San Francisco; it’s across our nation. In the past 30 years our nation has changed a lot. The holes in our safety net have gotten bigger and bigger. We have responded by increasing the criminalization of poverty and homelessness… that is not only a violation of human rights, it’s also costing us a ton!

    Okay, I’ll get off my homeless advocate soapbox. I couldn’t resist… it’s a reflex.

    “I wonder if we are too dependent upon institutional care, organizational commitment, rather than taking personal responsibility?”

    YES! Oh wait, I already blew my cover above when I mentioned I’m a Catholic anarchist. You might think I’m bias when it comes to this question. Well, whatever, the answer to your question is still yes. We like to outsource charity.

    “So many people seem to believe they need a degree to do any sort of work for the Church or the poor.”

    YES! Oh wait… I’m getting too excited here. I find this in the Church a lot and it’s baffling to me. But it’s not just in the Church… it’s our culture.

    “So many people attracted to religious life think of contemplative life as opposed to serving the needs around them, completely unaware that the active life can be as contemplative as cloistered life.”

    YES! Okay, I couldn’t resist a “YES” after that one. I’m a big fan of those cloistered nuns… the ones up in Haight-Ashbury played a big role in me becoming Catholic. But as one of the nuns told me… they are praying for those serving the needs around them (they pray for me…. I need all the prayers I can get). It’s a team effort.

    “If you say the Church has to do more - then maybe you (we) are being called to do more.”

    I agree. It has been, and continues to be, a process to figure out how these two aspects of my life intersect. I have always known I’ve been drawn to do the work I do… and I’ve been doing it since the mid ‘90’s. The Catholic part entered the picture about 6 years ago and was never part of my plan. It’s piecing together though.

    1. Thanks very much for your response Kelly - I very much liked your essay and what you have said here - you have effectively made a difference in my outlook. Perhaps when I get time I can expound on that. Thanks much! God bless you in your work.

    2. I enjoy the discussion!


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