Nationally, November is recognized as Homeless Youth Awareness Month. Atlanta nonprofit, Lost-n-Found Youth (LnFY), is launching an awareness campaign between now and next November and beyond to inspire “outside the box” thinking and to evoke compassion. The campaign kicks off with the release of “The Box,” a video inspired by a poem conceived by two Atlanta-based creative collaborators.
Lost-n-Found Youth is Atlanta’s only nonprofit providing end-to-end services for homeless LGBTQ youth, ages 18 to 25. Their mission is to end homelessness and to raise awareness of the increasing percentage of youth who are forced to leave their homes because of family conflict after they come out as gay.
The awareness campaign emphasizes the importance of compassion for youth who identify as LGBTQ. The first stanza of the poem amplifies this key message: Encased in society’s box so tight, What they dictate, day and night; Who to love, what to be, Imagination’s plea, set us free. The campaign includes a series of video messages shared across multimedia channels including social media, traditional media outlets, events, and other digital platforms.
Prioritizing an awareness campaign driven by compassion, Executive Director Melanea Alvarez was led to the idea for The Box. A poem came to life through a creative collaboration of words, images, and music inspired by the profound voices of two individuals who “graduated” from the nonprofit’s 90-day program. They both have moved into their new permanent housing, both have jobs with stable income, and they are honing their life skills to continue to live independently.
The Box and the debut campaign are produced by Paul Carpenter and directed by Daniel Sagona of the BGG Agency. The original music track was scored and composed by Damian Martin and Sashimi Sam Music.
In honor of Lost-n-Found Youth’s new campaign, Alvarez spoke to Georgia Voice about the impact of awareness and the role art plays in combating stigma.
Quotes have been edited for clarity.
What is the intended goal of the awareness campaign?
As an organization, the mission of Lost-n-Found Youth is to end homelessness, but that starts with greater awareness of individuals who identify as LGBTQ. This campaign is about compassion and finding it in our hearts to be more accepting of all humankind.
How can awareness lead to a decrease in queer youth homelessness?
More than 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, which is a staggering statistic. “The Box” awareness campaign emphasizes the importance of compassion for youth who identify as LGBTQ.
Lost-n-Found Youth is often the only refuge for homeless youth who, after being rejected by their families, are out on the streets and facing discrimination, harassment, violence and sexual abuse. Through the messages of “The Box” and increased awareness, our intent is to encourage volunteerism and strengthen donor support so we may reach as many youth as possible through generous giving.
How does art like poetry emphasize our humanity? What role does humanity play in ending homelessness?
All art comes from deep within each of us. “The Box” is about the human experience. We all have the ability for compassion. Our hope is that this campaign continues to challenge and elevate the ability and capacity for acceptance. The video conveys the notion that as humans we may not always be able to explain who we are, but most of the time we can explain how we feel.
What are ways people can support the work of LnFY and The Box?
We would be thrilled to have as many people as possible watch and forward the link to “The Box” or post it on their social media channels. It is intended to spark conversation and to welcome interpretation and feedback. Homelessness for LGBTQ youth is a hard space, and it is often compounded with extremely personal family and friend dynamics that are not the easiest to navigate or resolve. The video is currently posted on the home page of our site at lnfy.org
Additionally, we are always inviting the community to contribute their time as a volunteer, as a member of our board, and also financially in whatever way we can. Our LnFY Thrift Store is a fun opportunity if you are interested in getting involved and not sure where to start.
You can watch “The Box” and donate to Lost-n-Found Youth at lnfy.org