New doors are opening for homeless youth in Alberta who identify as being part of a sexual minority.
A program called Aura Host Homes was launched June 12 in Calgary by the Boys and Girls Club and the Calgary Homeless Foundation. Its goal is to match homeless young people with safe homes and families.
Dr. Alex Abramovich has been researching homeless LGBT youth for almost a decade. He says the program is the first of its kind in Canada.
"Alberta is changing the way that we deal with this issue," he says.
"Often times shelters and housing programs, youth serving organizations are not safe spaces for LGBT youth due to the homophobia, trans-phobia, violence, discrimination that have been going on for years. So often times this population of young people won't even access shelters or youth services."
Abramovich says many homeless youth identify as LGBT. Aura Host Homes will help 16 of those youth at a time, matching them with approved host families.
Cheryl Doherty, who works for the Boys and Girls Club, supports the initiative.
"I think it's a shame we didn't step back years ago and say, 'This is unacceptable,' but now Calgarians have stepped up and said 'we've got to do something about that,'" she says.
"The ultimate goal is absolutely that these youth never become homeless again. Making sure that young person doesn't leave school, graduates, becomes self-sufficient, can realize their hopes and dreams."
Organizers expect the program should be active within a few months.