Roman, 17

Roman has been homeless since he was 17. He grew up in the South to conservative religious parents who were homophobic. Roman felt isolated because of his identity. He started to become withdrawn in school and depressed. His mother took him to see a therapist. Roman confided in the therapist that he is gay. The therapist told his parents who committed him to a conversion therapy program run by their church.

Roman was made to pray out loud, denouncing his identity. He was forced to watch anti-LGBTQ programs and to meet with church leaders who performed what he describes as exorcisms. They told him the devil made people gay to go against God's will. Roman started having nightmares thinking that he was possessed while being chased by the devil.

One day, Roman arrived at home from school to find his parents ransacked his room. They found a journal he kept where he wrote about the crushes he had at school. Roman also wrote dreams to grow up and move far away from home so he could date men. He had dreams of marrying a man and having a family.

His parents told him to pack his belongings and leave their home.

Family rejection is the leading cause of LGBTQ youth homelessness. Over 90% of the young people in our care are homeless because of homophobia and transphobia rooted in religious beliefs.

Roman found us on the internet and made his way to New York City. He arrived at our Drop-In Center, where he cried when he met other people like him for the first time in his life.

He says he is mostly happy and relieved to be in a place where he can be himself. He is focused on completing high school next year but worries his parents will not be there to watch him graduate. He feels sad to think that his parents will never speak to him again.

We're rooting for Roman and know he will do great things in his life. And, if his parents don't turn up for his graduation, we will be there in their place celebrating him and showing him the care and love they've denied him.