Gay Youth Shelter In Jamaica Closes After Pressure From Anti-Gay Forces

Published: October 1, 2012

After a year of struggling, the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) and the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) agreed to close the country’s only LGBT drop-in shelter.

In August 2011, JASL director Ian McKnight proposed the creation of a shelter for young gay people who, struggling with their sexuality and rejection from their communities, were engaging in high-risk behaviors on the streets of Kingston.

But last Thursday, at a meeting with unsympathetic city officials, organizers announced they’d be shuttering the shelter: “We have tried to conduct a drop-in center on a number of occasions, but we don’t have the skills set and resources to deal with it,” J-FLAG’s Dane Lewis said. “What we have decided is that we have to stop it, because we don’t have the staff capacity to manage it.’

LGBT activists and the center’s young visitors were despondent at the news: “The schooling is not going to be enough [for us],” said one member. “We need meals and a drop-in centre. Some of them don’t have clothes. Where are they gonna sleep and get food?”

“We are on our knees,” said one of the young people served by the drop-in shelter.

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