40% of Youth Experiencing Homelessness Identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (LGBT).
Once they are out of their homes, LGBT youth are even more vulnerable. They are at a greater risk for victimization, unsafe sexual practices, and mental health issues than non-LGBT young people experiencing homelessness.
Why Does It Happen?
Family conflict is the most common cause of all youth homelessness. For LGBT youth in particular, the conflict tends to be over their sexual orientation or gender identity – and the results aren’t pretty: Half of all teens get a negative reaction from their parents when they come out to them. More than 1 in 4 are thrown out of their homes.
LGBT youth experience homelessness for a variety of other reasons, including the intersection of homophobia & transphobia, poverty, and failed systems. According to service providers, additional reasons include family issues, aging out of the foster care system, family poverty, and abuse in the home.
99% of Service Providers Report Working with LGBTQ Youth.
Sometimes people think that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth only receive services from LGBTQ organizations. Guess what? That’s not true! 79% of the providers we surveyed work at mainstream or non-LGBTQ, agencies. Also, 99% of the service providers surveyed reported working with LGBTQ youth in their homeless youth programs. Less than 1% reported not working with LGBTQ youth. That means we need to make sure ALL service providers know how to provide safe, inclusive, and affirming care for ALL youth! It's also crucial that all levels of government are doing what they can to help fund these vital services and ensure that LGBT youth are protected when seeking support. Our True Inclusion Directory is a key connector for individuals within communities and for youth seeking safe and affirming services.
LGBTQ Youth Experiencing Homelessness Have Unique Needs.
While LGBT youth experiencing homelessness have similar needs to their non-LGBT peers, they also have needs specific to their identities. “LGBT” is an umbrella acronym intended to represent sexual orientation and gender identity, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the needs of each specific identity under this umbrella are the same.
Needs of LGBQ Youth
What do LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness need? The service providers we surveyed identified housing and identity related supports as the two greatest needs for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning youth experiencing homelessness.
Needs of Transgender Youth
For transgender youth, housing was the most frequently cited need, followed by access to transition related supports. Transition related supports include access to legal support, name/gender marker change, access to healthcare specific to transgender youth, access to hormones, and emotional support.
Physical and Mental Health of LGBTQ Homeless Youth vs Non-LGBTQ Homeless Youth
In terms of health care, LGBT youth tend to be underserved due to a shortage of clinics and facilities that cater to their unique health needs – and because some healthcare providers refuse to treat minors without parental consent.
We asked homeless youth service providers what they thought about the physical and mental health of the LGBTQ youth they serve. Overall, they reported the physical and mental health of LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness are worse than that of non-LGBTQ youth. Notably, providers were more likely to report that transgender youth experienced these disparities.
You Can Make a Difference
When we say “let’s end LGBT youth homelessness,” we mean it! We’re working on a national level and in communities across the country to not just address LGBT youth homelessness, but to also prevent it from happening in the first place.
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 LGBT youth homelessness. The reality is: Everyone can make a difference! LGBT youth experiencing homelessness interact with more than just the folks working at shelters. They also go to coffee shops and libraries, ride public transportation, use the Internet… To put it simply: They live life! We all share the same world.
Learn about our Forty to None Network, a free network for awesome people doing awesome things to address LGBT youth homelessness.