Most Influential 2015: Sandra Whitley

Sandra Whitley at Thrive. Photo by Brian Caron.

Thanks to the efforts of Whitley—a self-described survivor of a tough West Texas childhood—and her small but dedicated team, San Antonio is one of the few cities in the U.S. to offer shelter and support to homeless LGBTQ youth, who are often homeless precisely because they have been rejected or persecuted by family and peers. After a few early bumps with City regulations at its initial location, Thrive Youth Center opened its doors, 24/7, in February at Haven for Hope, the city’s homeless-services campus on the West Side of downtown. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute estimates that as much as 40 percent of the national youth homeless population identifies as queer, and Haven puts that percentage at 50 in San Antonio. Thrive’s center includes dorms, bathrooms, offices and full access to Haven’s many social services, but perhaps the nicest feature of the partnership is the LGBTQ sensitivity training that Haven’s staff undertook to welcome the new neighbors.

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