‘Singing for Shelter’ raises funds for vulnerable youth through song
By Zak Hansen
Las Cruces Bulletin
A study by America’s Youngest Outcasts found there were more than 14,500 homeless children and youth in New Mexico during the 2008-9 school year. The majority of these – 60 percent, or roughly 8,700 – were school aged, with another 40 percent – 5,800 New Mexico children – were younger than 6.
Nationally, those figures are more staggering – a 2014 HUD report showed 194,302 youth and children were homeless on a single night in 2014; some 550,000 youths and young adults will be homeless for longer than one week.
While these numbers paint a grim picture, others place the number of homeless youth at more than 1 million.
Several national studies examining lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth experiencing homelessness found even more sobering statistics. Estimates of between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, and those youth are at an even greater risk than other young people.
What does this mean?
Nearly 60 percent of homeless LGBTQ youth have been sexually victimized or assaulted during their lives on the street; that figure drops to 33 percent for straight homeless youth.
LGBTQ youth are a full seven times more likely to experience acts of sexual violence than straight homeless youth. LGBTQ youth are more likely to engage in so-called “survival sex” in exchange for shelter, food, clothing and other necessities, making them especially vulnerable to pregnancy, to HIV infection and myriad other sexually transmitted diseases.
Some 65 percent of LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness have mental health issues; 53 percent have histories of alcohol or substance abuse; a third have faced domestic violence or abuse at the hand of a partner or family member; a third have been in and out of the criminal justice system.
These chilling figures paint a picture of some of our society’s most vulnerable citizens – sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, grandchildren – and the truly dire, seemingly hopeless situations they face.
This Saturday, Nov. 14, you can do your part to help support the road to recovery and stability for the homeless LGBTQ youth of New Mexico – those who need it most – by joining with Casa Q for the inspiring visual and musical journey that is “Singing for Shelter.”
Beginning at 7:30 p.m. on the stage of Downtown Las Cruces’ historic Rio Grande Theatre, Singing for Shelter is billed as a “multi-sensory concert experience” featuring live music from up-and-coming and established acts from Austin, Texas, and right here in the Mesilla Valley, all to support the efforts of Casa Q.
Albuquerque- based Casa Q was formed by Cristy Carbon-Gaul in 2013 with a specific goal in mind: to provide safe living options for LGBTQ youth and allies – those who do not identify personally as LGBTQ but support an end to injustices for those who do – who are at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness.
Organizing this event locally is Las Crucen Domenic Metta, whose own personal tragedy – the 2011 home robbery and murder of his partner – has been transformed in time to a clarion call for positive efforts made in the community to bring a measure of hope to the otherwise underserved, underrepresented and overlooked populations we share this Land of Enchantment with.
When a botched robbery perpetrated by a young, homeless drug addict with a violent childhood past took the life of his partner, the dire issue of youth homelessness became horrifyingly clear to Metta. Meeting with Casa Q founder Carbon- Gaul deepened Metta’s understanding of the tragic lives awaiting those homeless and at-risk youth – many of them not dissimilar to the very person responsible for tearing his world apart.
“I was overwhelmed with the amazing achivedment and hard work enacted by the Casa Q team, which organized and established a residence for kids 14 to 18 in just one year’s time,” Metta said. “I thought, ‘now there’s a group of truly concerned individuals who know how to get things done!’” Continued Metta, “I had no idea 1.3 million kids are living on the streets every day in our country, and that 20 to 40 percent of them identify as gay. How sad is it that children are disowned just because of who they are? Maybe we can’t control how kids are treated by their families, but I just had to do something about the state in which these kids are left to fend for themselves.”
As a way to memorialize his fallen partner, and to shed light on the plight of youth homelessness, especially the struggles facing the LGBTQ population, Metta teamed with Casa Q and the one-of-akind concert experience “Singing for Shelter” was born.
“Singing for Shelter” will feature Austin singer- songwriter Ryan DeSiato, a rising star whose eclectic rhythms complement his strong and soulful baritone voice, combining modern rock, world and folk influences into his own sound across two EPs and a full slate of shows both here and abroad. DeSiato’s debut full-length “So Much for Innocence” is coming soon. Visit www.ryandesiato. com for more.
Also from Austin, Sarah McSweeney, herself a skilled singer-songwriter, has lent her angelic, three-octave ranged voice to performances by the likes of Cobie Calliat, Michelle Branch and even the Beale Street Blues Boy himself, B.B. King. When she isn’t singing, McSweeney works on music programs for autistic children, and has donated funds from her own busy performance schedule to the victims of the Wimberley Flood, which devastated parts of Central Texas. Visit http:// sarahmcsweeney. bandcamp. com to hear more of McSweeney’s music.
“Seize the sound” with Carpe Sono – Austin again – a semiprofessional acapella group of singers age 21 to 40 that takes