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Home Is Where Our Story Begins

Home Is Where Our Story Begins

Love Travels Lead Image 2

How one hotel group is helping keep LGBTQ youth safer from homelessness — and you can too.

Home. That one word conjures up an enormous number of emotional responses and visual imagery. Our idea of home differs significantly from one person to another, especially over cultural divides. But there are universal aspects. There is the physical home that protects us from the elements, but there is also the kind that makes us feel safe, comfortable and loved as our true selves.

But not everyone has a home, and many people don't feel safe in theirs. Every day, discrimination, poverty, and violence drives LGBTQ youth out of their homes. In fact, nearly 40 percent of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ, according to the True Colors Fund, founder Cyndi Lauper's organization dedicated to ending homelessness for LGBTQ youth.

The group's 2016 report on homeless LGBTQ youth, At the Intersections, noted, "Youth experiencing homelessness live at the intersections of various marginalized identities, which may include their race, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, immigration status, ability, and more."

Although improvements are being made, the study determined that government systems were failing youth experiencing homelessness by not taking into account the specific needs created by these intersecting identities.

Marriott International is hoping to change that. The company is partnering with True Colors, underwriting the new True Innovation Fellowship, which is providing Anthony Anderson of Arlington, Virginia, the opportunity to participate in the development of technology solutions that address issues facing LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness.

"For me, technology has been consistent in challenging me, educating me, and even liberating me," Anderson says. "Technology lets you know that you are never alone and there are people out there who want to help."

Marriott intends to help Anderson develop a lifeline app to provide LGBTQ youth with the locations of safe gender-neutral bathrooms, and places where they are welcome to charge their phones and find a safe bed to sleep.

Marriott is also continuing the partnership it launched last year with Casa Ruby, a Washington, D.C.-based bilingual, multicultural LGBTQ organization that provides lifesaving services and programs to some of the most vulnerable in the D.C. community, including transgender and queer youth. Their motto is "Somos la Casa de Todas," or "We are everyone's home."

The organization's founder, Ruby Corado fled El Salvador's civil war when she was just 16. For two decades, she's been a fearless advocate for other transgender people, especially those of color, youth, and those experiencing homelessness.

Through support like that of Marriott, Casa Ruby and True Colors are helping LGBTQ people, and especially young people, find their way home.

Marriott International has embraced diversity and inclusion since 1927. Striving to be a home-away-from-home for all guests, Marriott International has taken new steps to make sure LGBTQ travelers feel welcome, with their #LoveTravels campaign.

Launched in 2014, #LoveTravels brings to life Marriott's longstanding commitment to ensuring every person is valued and welcomed whenever they enter the doors of its hotels. It serves as a platform for sharing diverse perspectives on the importance of travel, including those of Jason Collins, Geena Rocero, Tim Howard Angela Simmons, Diane Guerrero and Diego Boneta. The cornerstone of Marriott's culture is its 'put people first' philosophy coupled with its belief that everyone deserves to be welcomed. Just weeks before marriage equality became the law of the land nationwide, #LoveTravels hosted the wedding of George Carrancho and Sean Franklin in Washington, DC's Capital Pride Parade, with TV personality Ross Mathews as officiant. The campaign has also raised donations for recent immigrants at the Open Arms Community Center in South Florida.

In 2016, #LoveTravels invited people around the world to create artistic expressions of love and support for the LGBTQ community. The program was a huge success and returns this year as the #LoveTravels Mosaic. Once again, for every piece of art it receives, Marriott will make a donation to Casa Ruby to support their homeless youth programs.

The powerful #LoveTravels Mosaic will be displayed in the Freedom Plaza for a full 48-hours on June 8th and 9th, a couple of days before the Capital Pride Parade. During this exhibition, Marriott invites you to view thousands of unique expressions of support for the LGBTQ community, and they will add your artwork to the mosaic. For each new piece of art that is added to the #LoveTravels Mosaic, Marriott will make a donation to Casa Ruby.

"Everyone -- whether straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender -- should be allowed to show their true colors, and be accepted and loved for who they are," said True Colors founder Cyndi Lauper.

Marriott agrees. Brian King, global brand and sales officer for Marriot International, told OUT, "During this challenging time for LGBTQ rights, Marriott International is inspiring people all over the world to come together in an expression of unity and support for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness."

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