California Bill Would Launch Taxpayer-Funded Program To House Teens Who Claim They Are Rejected by Family

Legislation would create pilot program to house 18-to-24-year-olds who leave home because they identify as queer, gay, or transgender

(Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen/Wikimedia Commons)
February 2, 2024

A California bill would launch a taxpayer-funded program, run by LGBT groups, to house teens and young people who claim they have to leave home due to family rejection.

The proposal, unveiled on Wednesday, would create a state pilot program across five California counties to fund transitional housing, managed by LGBT organizations, for 18-to-24-year-olds who say they’ve had to leave home because they identify as queer, gay, or transgender. The legislation’s model is the "Unicorn Homes" program in San Diego County, a project of the North County LGBT Resource Center, which runs a network of "unicorn home hosts" for teens as young as 14, and offers them services such as breast binding and changing their names and gender on legal documents. The center also helps them find therapists, 12-step programs, and drug overdose medications.

The volunteer hosts and host families chosen by LGBT groups would have to give "crisis intervention" to the young people. The bill claims that reuniting these youth with their own families is "the ultimate goal."

Critics view the proposal as yet another push to divide gender-confused kids from their parents. It comes after Democrats in the state passed—and Governor Gavin Newsom (D.) signed—a law allowing therapists to remove children as young as 12 from their homes and place them in state custody. Two years ago, California also enshrined the first-of-its-kind legislation to allow gender-confused kids from other states to come for puberty blockers, sex-change hormones, and surgeries.

"Setting up vulnerable youth experiencing difficult family situations with strangers whose values are opposite of their parents, as proposed [in this bill], will only exacerbate our mental health crisis and should not be the policy of the state," said Lance Christensen, vice president of policy for the conservative California Policy Center.

A representative for the bill’s author, San Diego-area Democratic assemblywoman Tasha Boerner, did not respond to a request for comment. When Boerner introduced the measure’s first iteration last year she touted it as a way to "help identify, screen, and train LGBTQ+ affirming households that host LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness due to family rejection with a safe place to stay."

The proposed program’s costs haven’t been estimated yet. An analysis of Boerner’s first version—which would have launched programs in just two counties instead of five—projected them to range in the "low millions" annually.