Castro Youth Housing Initiative: For youth who identify as LGBTQ
Larkin Street Youth Services began as an effort to serve homeless youth in the Tenderloin and Polk Gulch neighborhoods of San Francisco. The origin is still reflected in our name, but we know that kids live on the streets of other neighborhoods as well.
Our Castro Youth Housing Initiative was conceived in the same way Larkin Street originally was: by a group of residents, business owners, and social service providers concerned with the number of kids living on the streets of their community. With the help of San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty and many other community representatives, Larkin Street responded with an initiative to bring supportive housing to homeless youth — many of whom identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender — in the Castro region of the city.
In addition to housing, services include case management, life skills training, referrals for mental health and/or substance abuse counseling, and access to Larkin Street’s full continuum, including educational support and employment training. They pay half of their income in rent to encourage responsibility and to gain budgeting skills. They meet weekly with their case manager individually and as a group to ensure that they receive all the support and life-skill building they need to take necessary steps toward reaching greater independence.
Some of the young adults in the Castro Youth Housing Initiative cannot yet succeed in other transitional housing programs because of their substance abuse and/or mental health needs. That doesn’t mean that we give up on them. There is ample peer support and mentorship from understanding adults. This is especially important to youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. For those who have been marginalized by their families and communities, the Castro Youth Housing Initiative is a place that accepts them for who they are and helps them successfully determine who they will become.
Larkin Street launched the program in 2004; it has since grown from nine to 30 units of supportive housing.