Gay and homeless: In plain sight, a largely hidden population

WEST HOLLYWOOD-CA-NOVEMBER 4, 2010: AJ, left, 23, and his boyfriend Alex, 21, share a kiss in a West Hollywood park where they sometimes sleep at night. (Christina House / For The Times)      Originally published  December 12, 2010 By Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times

Every year, hundreds of gay youths end up on the streets of L.A. County, where they make up a disproportionate share of the people under 25 who are homeless. ‘They haven’t been on the streets for years and years,’ an advocate says, ‘so they don’t look bad.’

The city hipsters sipping expensive coffee and chatting on cellphones did not give a second look at the two young men cutting across a Hollywood courtyard on their way to bed down in a nearby park.

AJ, 23, and his boyfriend, Alex, 21, hide their blankets and duffel bags in bushes. They shower every morning at a drop-in center and pick out outfits from a closet full of used yet youthful attire.

“If I could be invisible, I would,” AJ said. “I feel ashamed to admit that I’m homeless.”

Every year, hundreds of gay youths end up alone on the streets of Los Angeles County, where they make up a disproportionate share of the at least 4,200 people under 25 who are homeless on any given day.

PHOTO GALLERY: On the streets of Hollywood with AJ and Alex

A recent study found that 40% of the homeless youths in Hollywood, a gathering spot for these young people, identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or unsure of their sexual orientation. Five percent say they are transgender.

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