Outreach to LGBTQ homeless youth in LA. An interview with activist Rivianna Hyatt.
BY ROXIE PERKINS
Rivianna Hyatt is a queer homeless youth activist who works with the L.A. LGBTQ Center, the Youth Center on Highland, True Colors Foundation, and is an Executive Founding Member on the National Youth Forum on Homelessness.
In an interview THE FIGHT Hyatt talks about the True Colors Fund—Cyndi Lauper’s LGBTQ foundation, reaching out to the trans community and experiencing homelessness herself.
You work at several homeless related organizations. How do you define what you do?
Basically I read, write, and talk about youth homelessness with the goal of ending it… My role at the Youth Center on Highland is outreach. I spend my days and nights driving a minivan around Hollywood and the rest of LA. I communicate and reach out to the working girls in South LA—we go to Skid Row, but we’re based in Hollywood primarily because so many young people end up on the streets there.
What type services are offered at the Youth Center on Highland?
The Center serves 14-24 year olds… Anyone is able to access our drop in services whether or not what they need is a place to sleep. L.A. is so highly impacted by youth homelessness that getting a bed at the Center can be difficult—we’re always at capacity. We’re an LGBTQ focused facility but anyone is welcome…
Our Center is different than others because our focus is on providing safety to our trans folks and trans girls. Out of all the populations that we serve at the Center, our facility is the only safe option for that population.
To someone who is afraid or feels too ashamed to ask for help, I would say that services exist and they are out there and they are out there for you.”
How did you get involved in this kind of work?
Through the True Colors Fund—Cyndi Lauper’s LGBTQ foundation. They mostly do policy work and media stuff and in 2015 they put out a list called “40 of the 40”—a list of 40 LGBTQ folks who have experienced homelessness and I was on that list…
I was then asked to be on a panel for the National Alliance of Homelessness—it was the first time they’d ever had young people at the conference before. Historically young folks in this [type of homelessness activism] are usually just asked to bleed out their story for a crowd—this was the first time that young people were actually asked their opinions about the system.
What keeps you motivated to push forward?
I am lucky enough to be part of a larger conversation that centers on how we manage the issue of homelessness—particularly in queer youth. I think a lot of people take it for granted that people sleeping outside has and always will exist—it’s a sign and result of the failure of community and culture, not the result of an individual’s failure. So making that difference known motivates me.
What would you say to someone who is experiencing homelessness or is in need of services but is too afraid to ask for help?
I experienced homelessness for seven years growing up, on and off. For me that more or less looked like my family sleeping in motels for years—I didn’t know that was homelessness. I knew it was shameful and I knew that I wasn’t supposed to talk about it with anyone but as soon as I started to talk about it I found my community in the one place I never wanted to look for it.
To someone who is afraid or feels too ashamed to ask for help, I would say that services exist and they are out there and they are out there for you.
To learn more about Hyatt’s work check out the L.A. LGBTQ Center at: lalgbtqcenter.org.