AR Woman Opening Homeless Shelter for LGBT Teens

LITTLE ROCK, AR -- Nationwide, teens who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, or bisexual are ending up being kicked out of their homes and living on the street.

If you stop and ask a homeless person why they live on the street, you may expect them to tell you they lost their job or lost all they had to a drug addiction.

But, you may run into someone with a totally different story. One that is repeated more often these days.

"I realized a lot of them were coming out to me as LGBT."

Young people kicked out of their parents' homes because they are gay.

"I did a little bit of research and realized this is a known nationwide problem of LGBT people being overly represented in the homeless population."

Penelope Poppers began doing research on the issue back in 2007.

While volunteering at homeless shelters here in the Natural State, she found the stories to be heartbreaking.

"We are in the Bible Belt. The thoughts that people have unfortunately though, beliefs, lead to them feeling like the best decision is for them to make their child homeless, which is hard to even fathom but this is happening."

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 20 percent of the homeless youth in this country is considered lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

"For the ones who have recently been kicked out, there's still a lot of pain there and a lot of suffering and the ones kicked out many years ago, they've kind of moved past that step and there's more hurt than anger."

Poppers says the homeless LGBT teen can sometimes find it hard to express their gender and sexual preferences at shelters because many of them are supported by churches.

That leaves teens on the street even longer.

"A lot of them have to move because we don't have a lot of services currently here for LGBT people or LGBT youth and especially LGBT homeless young adult."

"They go to California, or Chicago, or New York City."

Startled by the scenario, Poppers decided to do something.

Since 2010, she's been raising money to open Lucie's Place, a homeless shelter for LGBT teens.

She hopes by the end of the year the home will be open to accepting wandering youngsters.

Staff will be on hand to counsel and train the house guests to get them on their feet.

"They'll develop all the skills necessary for their future independence. They'll learn money management skills. They'll learn to develop interpersonal skills,. They'll learn job readiness training and they'll complete their educations."

But until that house opens, Poppers fears more gay teens will end up on the streets and living in the elements, all because their loved ones don't agree with their sexuality.

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