True Colors United

By Lakecia Hammond
June 18, 2018
True Colors United, co-founded by Cyndi Lauper, Lisa Barbaris and Jonny Podell, 
works to end homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, 
creating a world in which all young people can be their true selves. This Pride Month, we’ve partnered with True Colors United to give retail customers an opportunity to give back.* We sat down with Gregory Lewis, Executive Director & CEO at True Colors United to share what a holistic approach to ending homelessness looks like and how to create safer spaces in your own community.


Tell us more about the inception of True Colors United.

Before there was True Colors United, there was a True Colors Tour – which benefited different national LGBTQ organizations. Every night on the tour, Cyndi Lauper (our co-founder) would talk about equality from her heart onstage for a few minutes, and it was always magic. Then one night, we thought, if we’re able have this effect night after night, imagine if we committed ourselves to this issue every day. And thus, True Colors United was born.

Since then, we've built a holistic approach to ending LGBTQ youth homelessness by creating solutions and systems to prevent and end youth homelessness for all young people - centering the experiences of the most marginalized - most notably, LGBTQ youth. We combine that with meeting people, agencies, and communities where they are at and finding a point of common ground to start from.


What's the most staggering statistic in your findings with LGBTQ + homelessness?

According to a new study from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than their non-LGBTQ peers.

Also, 1 in 10 young adults ages 18-to-25 endure some form of homelessness in a year. Both these statistics are shocking, but show how important it is that we keep working.

We can’t give up on these young people.


How do you work with federal, state and local levels for achieving the company's mission?

True Colors United works at the federal, state, and local levels to ensure vital funding, policies, systems, and protections are in place that meet the needs of LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness. We also collaborate with communities and service providers to ensure LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness have access to the inclusive and affirming services they need. We develop and implement systems at the community level to prevent youth homelessness, while ensuring that any homelessness experienced is rare, brief, and one-time.


If people can't get to a store to purchase the Be Alternative tee, or donate money directly, how else can they give back?

People often think that, because they don’t work at a shelter or service provider, they don’t have a role to play in the effort to end LGBTQ youth homelessness.

The reality is: Everyone can make a difference! LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness interact with more than just the folks working at shelters. They also go to coffee shops and libraries, ride public transportation, go to school, use social media... To put it simply: They live life!”

We all share the same world - and we all could do a better job at making that world a better place for young people. Check out our video from #TrueColorsDay on how you can create safer, braver spaces in your community.



What does winning the battle against LGBTQ+ youth homelessness look like?

We believe that LGBTQ youth homelessness is a community issue. Real change can happen when people come together with a shared vision. That means working to not just end homelessness among LGBTQ youth, but to prevent it. That’s what winning looks like.


How important is social sustainability for the future of our planet?

Social sustainability is so important - True Colors United is committed to equity. We envision a future in which no young person is more likely to experience homelessness than another. This is America's next generation we're talking about. By investing in them, we invest in our future.

A portion of all in-store sales this June 19th will be given back to True Colors United to end LGBTQ+ homelessness for good. For more information about how to get involved, visit


*A portion of retail store purchases from Friday, June 22 - Sunday, June 24 will be donated to True Colors United.


Lakecia Hammond is a Freelance Writer based in Atlanta. She can be found discussing social change over a bottle of merlot with perfect strangers or on Instagram @lakecia_hammond.

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