Summer Summit Presented by PFLAG

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Summer Summit Success!

Our Gainesville PFLAG chapter hosted our very first Summer Summit this past August 17th on the topic of Homeless LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, or queer/questioning) Youth. Summit organizers Bill Hutchinson and Steve Waybright worked with PFLAG, local residents, and organizations in Gainesville and North Florida to bring together people who are connected with and interested in helping LGBTQ youth who struggle with the ramifications of homelessness. Concerned citizens and PFLAG members, Jim & Mary Freeman, felt that the event was a step in the right direction: "We are excited about working with everyone in planning the action PFLAG can take based on the feedback and suggestions. It was amazing! The networking was so positive."

The aim of the summit was to raise awareness about the LGBTQ portion of the homeless population in Gainesville, who often face a greater amount of discrimination and violence than other non-LGBTQ homeless youth. "We want to bring the issue to light and start a discussion about what we are doing, what we are not doing, and what we can do better," Hutchinson said (1). In a follow-up comment, CDC Family and Behavioral Health Services representative Radha Selvester stated, "We’ve also discovered that we are NOT capturing accurate data on LGBTQ youth participants [entering the youth shelter]. We are exploring ways to do this better."

"The Summit was both informative and inclusive...Something that I appreciated most about this event was that people (myself included) felt heard, and that people who came in knowing next to nothing about LGBTQ terminology and LGBTQI Youth Homelessness left with knowledge that they previously lacked," stated Summit collaborator Olivia DeMonte. DeMonte works with Health Street, a community-based effort to assess the medical and social services needs of Alachua County residents as well as to present opportunities for them to participate in research studies. She worked closely with Hutchinson and Waybright in generating statistics and identifying specific barriers to understanding where resources are needed.

Joel Cray, a presenter for the Summit who was representing STOMP (Students Teaching Open Mindedness and Pride) for Gainesville High School, expressed his own sense of hope following the event. "I felt really in tune with the community and really connected to the people and large groups/activists of the area. All together talking and informing each other about the problems the LGBTQ+ youth face and learning/brainstorming newer ways to interact and deal with the rising numbers of LGBTQ+ youths, was truly an eye-opening experience. I'm truly grateful that there are people in the area, of all ages, who are starting to take steps to improving the communities we are from."

1. (Cindy Swirko, Gainesville Sun, 8/14/2013, "Summit will focus on special needs of LGBT homeless").