Wednesday, May 25, 2011

HRC Clergy Call in Washington DC

This past weekend I attended the Human Right's Campaign's Clergy Call in Washington, DC. On Sunday afternoon I was part of a panel on LGBT Homeless Youth. You can read more about my experience at clergy call on the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries blog. I've included excerpts below:

Blog 1:
“Last night I presented at the Human Rights Campaign Clergy Call in Washington DC on LGBTQ Homeless Youth with Jeff Krehely, Director of LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress and André Wade, Program and Policy Analyst at the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Jeff and André outlined the policy issues that currently affect LGBT homeless youth and I talked about ways that pastors and congregations can listen to, interact with and advocate for homeless youth in ethically and faithfully responsible ways.

Jeff and André shared alarming facts and stats that are compelling. I was shocked to learn that the US only spends $200 per homeless youth each year, which is supposed to pay for their education, housing and reconnect them with healthy families. Yet, this amount doesn’t even cover their food needs. They also talked about their work with Sen. Kerry, who for the first time is introducing a bill that earmarks funds for LGBT youth.

Yesterday hundreds of clergy and faith leaders, including about fifteen Lutherans, went to Capitol Hill as a part of the Human Right’s Campaign’s (HRC) Clergy Call. Their goal was to remind their elected leaders that progressive faith leaders who preach and teach that equality is a right for all people stand with the majority of Americans. In fact, a new poll from HRC shows that 86% of Americans of faith reported that their faith leads them to believe that all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, deserve equal protections under the law.

These faith leaders represented millions of parishioners, members of denominations and individuals whom they’d prayed with and for. Some of the most moving pleas at the press conference were calls to end the funerals that pastors had been doing for gay youth who falsely believed they had no other options. Leaders urged congress to pass the Safe Schools and Anti-bullying Acts that could provide nationwide support for these youth.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In the News: Bay Area Reporter

'Encampment' brings attention to homeless LGBT youth


Homeless youth and their allies staged a "street sweep" in the Castro last Saturday to bring attention to budget cuts for social service programs. Photo: Matt Baume

The May 14 encampment was part of a nationwide demonstration to raise awareness of homelessness among a demographic known as transition-age youth. Homeless and foster youth between 16 and 24 years old can face unique housing challenges, particularly as they age out of the foster care system and learn to navigate services for adults.

"We're here to engage the community on homelessness, and specifically queer homeless youth issues," said organizer Beck, who uses only one name. "We're in kind of a state of emergency, saying, 'hey community, wake up.'"

Saturday's action started at Civic Center with games, an unveiling of protest banners, and hot meals served by Food Not Bombs. A march proceeded to Harvey Milk Plaza, where speakers read poetry and called for improved access to services to get off the street.

Their requests included housing with kitchens, rather than single room occupancy hotels with no facilities for food preparation; employment opportunities for youth who are unable to complete school; and an end to the sit-lie ordinance.

According to local organizers Trans Youth Rise Above, there are 5,700 homeless youth in San Francisco, of which at least 1,000 are queer.

Operation Shine America, which coordinated similar rallies in other cities, estimates that there are 2 million homeless youth in the country. Queers for Economic Equality Now also organized the San Francisco event.

Beck explained that organizations like the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center and Larkin Street Youth Services' Castro Youth Housing Initiative have faced repeated budget cuts, reducing services that can prevent youth from living on the street.

Jodi Schwartz, executive director of LYRIC, agreed that times are tight. "There has been a sizable decrease in investments in LGBTQ youth services," she told the Bay Area Reporter. "Just for LYRIC, if we were to lose the last piece of dollars for transition-age youth workforce, our decrease in funding would be 72 percent over the last four years."

Larkin Street Executive Director Sherilyn Adams told the B.A.R. that the extent of cuts won't be known until Mayor Ed Lee releases a budget later this month.

"There's no proposed cuts to the Castro Youth program," she said, but added, "it does not begin to meet the need."

To address the potential consequences of such cuts, Lee recently convened a stakeholder group consisting of representatives from organizations that advocate for homeless youth. Based on feedback from that group, the mayor asked that the Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families prioritize funding for LGBT and undocumented youth.

While organizations hope to turn around the recent budget cuts, local organizers are seeking ways to demonstrate how the city's rate of youth homelessness could worsen.

After Saturday's protest concluded, about three dozen homeless youth spent parts of the night camped out around the Muni station, according to organizer the Reverend Megan Rohrer, director of the Welcome Ministry, a coalition of 12 churches that seek to provide a faithful response to poverty.

Rohrer is currently working with the GLBT Historical Society to raise visibility by drawing inspiration from past struggles. She incorporated a "street sweep" into Saturday's protest, in which participants swept Castro Street sidewalks with brooms to evoke a similar 1960s-era protest.

In that action, LGBTs protested the city's negligent sanitation and police roundups by pushing brooms through the Tenderloin.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

New Living Lutheran Blog Post

As an ELCA pastor, you’d think I’d feel more comfortable praying in public. But I confess that nearly every time I pray in public, I feel self conscious, like my words weren’t moving, poetic or spirit-filled enough.

Because it’s my job, I can’t refuse to pray during worship or when someone in tears pleads for private prayer. Thankfully, I’m required to practice praying out loud.

I’ve found it helpful to read the Psalms, which show me that prayer can be an expression of awe for God and the wonders of the earth, confusion about injustice in the world, cries for help and healing or even anger at God, when God seems to have forgotten to be as present as is promised.

I’ve also found it helpful to memorize some of the beautiful prayers that almost always touch people’s hearts. Words like: “Now I lay me down to sleep,” “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” “God grant me the serenity” and “Our Father, who art in heaven.” Recently, I’ve enjoyed using hymns and spirituals as prayers and find that they touch my heart in a particularly moving way. Some of my favorites to sing are: “Jesus loves me this I know,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”

Read the rest of the blog here.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Help Megan Win the Citizen of Tomorrow Award

Megan has been chosen as a finalist for the Bay Area Citizen's Citizen of Tomorrow Award, for her work using community gardening to help the homeless and individuals with severe mental health issues to improve their quality of life.

Of the 5 finalists for the award, 3 will receive cash prizes for the projects of their choice. The winners are chosen through internet voting.

If Megan wins, she will use the prize money to buy seedlings for the garden she helped create at Bethlehem Lutheran in West Oakland, to buy bicycle powered smoothie machines for 3 community gardens and food and supplies for SF Refresh events.

SF Refresh is a project that Megan created and coordinates as Project Homeless Connect's Growing Home Community Garden Manager, in collaboration with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, which coordinates free whole body health care at community gardens throughout the city. You can learn more about SF Refresh here.

Please vote for Megan (#5 SF Refresh) - you can vote once a day until May 16th.

Tree, another finalist for the award is one of Megan's co-collaborators on the Free Farm project. Tree will be donating any prize money that he wins to the Free Farm. So, if you choose not to vote for Megan, please vote for Tree!