40% of homeless youth today are LGBTQ, most of which have become homeless due to familial rejection. We addressed this disproportionate statistic in response to the lack of awareness and knowledge about the experiences of homeless youth. For our radio piece, we addressed the issue of LGBTQ homeless youth by conducting interviews with two LGBTQ shelter directors, who helped us better understand the struggles these teens face and how the shelters plan for protecting and helping them. Our interviews with program directors of LGBT youth shelters gave us great insight into the structure of the shelters and how they proceed to help homeless youth once they arrive in the shelter, as well as the risks youth face while on the streets and how street-based outreach helps to tend to their physical and mental health problems.
We started by doing extensive research—reading articles in newspapers, peer-reviewed journals, listening to stories of homeless youth on YouTube, etc. From there, we condensed our information and made a list of shelters and organizations across the country to contact via email and phone. Two directors—Rick Westbrook of Lost-N-Found and Rebecca Reed of the Ali Forney Center—accepted our request for a FaceTime interview. After interviewing, we used Audacity, a sound-editor program, to distill the responses, arrange the clips of the interviews, and compile the script that we wrote while in the interview process. (The script was tweaked and re-recorded countless times in order to get the best possible sound.) We used audio from a video of a teenage boy, Daniel Pierce, being kicked out of his own home by his parents, to introduce the piece and illustrate the situation. We were directed to this video while interviewing Rick Westbrook, because Daniel ended up receiving nationwide support and currently serves on Lost-N-Found’s Board of Directors. We used the audio of his family screaming at him (with permission) as a powerful, confrontational exemplification of what some of these teens have to face while coming out to their parents. Because we couldn’t get an on-site interview at Lost-N-Found, we found replacement ambient audio of people moving around and working to play underneath Rick’s clips.
Overall, we fostered a sense of tenacity, due to difficulty connecting with organizations willing to speak with us about the issue. We received minimal responses, and ultimately we were not being able to interview actual homeless youth to interview due to confidentiality laws. We also faced technical challenges such as the sometimes-lacking audio quality and problems with editing due to the somewhat-overwhelming multitude of tracks. Despite this, the process of researching, interviewing, and storytelling illuminated much about the lives of homeless youth and the real, day-to-day hardships they face.