I am constantly amazed by kids who are aware of their sexuality and have the courage to come out at an early age. I see it in the hallways of the schools where I work and at various gay, lesbian, and trans. functions here in Philadelphia. My accolade aside, society isn’t always as thrilled and accepting. Coming out at an early age may lead to issues at school, and we all know the sad, sometimes disgusting risks that occur at home.
Each year there are between 115,000 and 640,000 homeless and runaway LGBTQ youth in this country. Many shelters and transitional-housing groups aren’t exactly welcoming to kids who fall in this genre. That’s where Foyer of Philadelphia comes in.
Foyer is a concept originating in the early 1800s in France. It focuses on the promotion of social inclusion and entrance of youth into the adult world and workforce. There are currently 140 Foyers worldwide. Only three are located in the United States, and Foyer of Philadelphia intends to be the only one to serve the LGBTQ young adult community.
This month Foyer of Philadelphia is graduating its first career development class. Funded by the Henrietta Tower Wurts Memorial, these classes take place twice a week and include field trips. Twelve youth will graduate into internships at gay-friendly or gay-owned businesses like Frog Commissary Catering, ActionAIDS, Studio 34 Yoga, Keller Williams Realty, The Rotunda, Spiral Q, and Society Hill Veterinary.
In their classes, the youth are instructed in four modules, learning: self assessment, self exploration, and self esteem; listening skills; career exploration with professional development; and the coming graduation into an internship. The class explores LGTBQ history and its impact on today’s youth in the community, as well as assisting them with their resumes and job interview preparation, and discussing options such as college and vocational school.
Out of the 12 students graduating, three are 17 or younger and nine are 18 or older. Six have been homeless and three are currently homeless.
These youth start their internships in the community on Monday, March 2, and continue for six weeks, at which point, in addition to their exposure to the work environment and valuable first work experience, they will receive a stipend.
The president of Foyer Philadelphia is Leigh Braden, MSW. She tells me, "The Foyer approach is to identify young adults who fall into three categories: one third high risk, one third medium risk, and one third low risk. This is the formula we used when considering students for the class. It has proven to be a very successful combination of students. We intend to offer a fall class, contingent upon funding."
To find out how you can help this non-profit contact Foyer Philadelphia.