Imagine being rejected by your family and the people closest to you. Imagine having to be on your own.
Raven was only a teenager when this happened to her. As a young transgender teen, Raven was on her own in the streets of New Orleans, at risk of hunger and being exploited by sex traffickers. Her family didn’t want to have anything to do with her because of her gender identity.
But Raven was able to find a community that provided shelter, food and accepted her as she was. It was a community that listened to her and that was willing to learn and adjust, so they could provide a space where she could be happy.
Jim Kelly of Covenant House International can’t hide his pride talking about Raven. “She helped us to understand that choice - a critical element of Covenant House - was important to the transgender population. She blossomed at Covenant House and she was a trailblazer working with us to make us do what we do better.”
Raven was able to complete her transition and, as an adult, she now has a place of her own and a stable job. This community was there for her when her family was not.
Covenant House is an international organization providing shelter, food and support to youth experiencing homelessness. With emergency funding from No Kid Hungry, they have been able to continue providing important meals to children through the challenging past two and a half years.
A large percentage of kids that come to the shelter identify as LGBTQIA+. Many times their families reject, abuse them and force them to leave their homes. In the Covenant House shelters, they are welcome, supported and celebrated.
Executive director of Covenant House Georgia, Dr. Alieizoria Redd explained that about 30% of young people arriving to shelters in that state identify as LGBTQIA+, but the number rises to 45% when they realize it’s a space where they can safely come out.
“These young people are healthy, functioning, high-achieving kids, but because they've come out, they have been thrown away,” shared Dr. Redd. “It's a very sad situation because, within about 72 hours of these kids landing on the street, they're approached for trafficking, for survival sex."
"Food insecurity really impacts these kids because they're having to engage in behaviors that they would not normally engage in just for the simple fact of trying to have one meal a day,” she added.
At Covenant House, they understand the importance of food as part of the process of healing.
“We begin with a meal,” said Kelly. “That's the concrete way we say, ‘we love you.’ It has to begin with a meal… They begin a new journey. If you can treat them with dignity, if you can treat them with respect, if you can show them, unconditional love, then you begin the process. Then the healing begins.”
Covenant House goes beyond just food and shelter. They become part of a family that loves and protects them, proving gender-affirming activities, Pride month celebrations, and LQBTQIA+ staff who understands and serve as role models. These activities not only help these kids feel welcome but can also save their lives.
According to a 2021 survey from the Trevor Project, LGBTQIA+ youth who had access to spaces that affirmed their sexual orientation and gender identity reported lower rates of attempting suicide. For trans youth, that rate was cut in half.
Today, LGBTQIA+ youth continue to experience discrimination that puts many at risk of hunger across our nation and the challenges are even bigger for those members of these communities who identify as people of color. We believe that open, vocal support of the LGBTQIA+ community is necessary, during Pride month and all year long. Let’s celebrate LGBTQIA+ youth, and their resilience, and continue working so one day every kid in this community can have the meals and love they need to thrive.
“What's amazing about our young people is their resilience,” shared Kelly, talking about LGBTQIA+ kids he has worked with. “They give a new definition to the word resilient; they are amazing in that realm, how they can bounce back, how they can do it. And it's because they're brave. They're my heroes.”
Ways to Help
Join us. See the different ways you can support our goal to end childhood hunger once and for all.
Donate. Just $10 can help provide up to 100 meals for hungry kids. No Kid Hungry works with schools, community organizations and local leaders across the country to connect kids to the food they need. Your generous donations will help us support organizations like Covenant House and others providing meals to LGBTQIA+ youth.