JoJo lives in a tent homeless in Hollywood, California. She has been homeless for over five years. Like many LGBT homeless youth, JoJo’s family didn’t accept her as she was. JoJo left home at 17 and has been homeless ever since.
JoJo’s story is heartbreaking. She was abused by her father growing up. JoJo has been kidnapped, raped, gay bashed and abused while on the streets homeless. She also suffers from Lupus.
JoJo says she continues to try and get off the streets. When an employer finds out JoJo is trans or homeless, they let her go. JoJo says she has been in and out of the homeless programs in Los Angeles.
Homelessness is a critical issue for transgender people, with one in five having experienced homelessness at some time in their lives because of discrimination and family rejection. As a result, an estimated 20-40% of the more than 1.6 million homeless youth in the United States are LGBT. Unfortunately, transgender people facing homelessness also face discrimination from agencies that should be helping them, with nearly one in three (29%) reporting being turned away from a shelter due to their transgender status.
“I don’t care who you worship or what you believe. I don’t care who you sleep with. If you are helping hurting people, you’re my friend, and I will support you.” ~ Mark Horvath
A few years ago I was invited to visit San Francisco by Bevan Dufty, who at the time was in charge of homeless services for the City and the County of San Francisco. Bevan connected me with TRANS:THRIVE, an organization that helps LGBTQ trans homeless people.
Here is a link to my visit with TRANS:THRIVE.
My visit with TRANS:THRIVE was not just educational, it changed me. Homelessness is horrible for everyone but often people who identify as LGBT are doubly persecuted. Transgender people have trouble finding and maintaining employment. Often the only choice becomes sex work. NO ONE should be forced into a life of prostitution simply to get some food, and NO ONE should be homeless!
Talking to JoJo, I could feel her pain. She’s a young homeless woman trying to survive in a crazy messed up world. It’s easy to judge people from a distance, but as humans, we need to allow people to be who they want to be. You don’t know what that person has lived through.
Because the news media and so many nonprofits show needs-based images of homeless people looking hungry and helpless, I try to always capture a photograph of a smile. I love this photo of JoJo laughing and I wish her all the happiness in the world.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson