Homelessness is one of the most pressing issues facing a disproportionate number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth in our country today. According to service providers, an estimated 20-40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ, while only 7-10% of the general youth population identifies as such. In 2006, the National LGBTQ Task Force released their pioneering report Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth: An epidemic of homelessness. In the 10 years since, we are both heartened by the progress that’s been made, and acutely aware of the work that still needs to be done.
At the Intersections reveals what has changed in the past decade regarding our understanding of LGBTQ youth homelessness. We have more information, and we are using that information to make more informed choices as we work to make youth homelessness a rare, brief, and one-time experience.
"Data lets us understand how sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression affect experiences with homelessness.”
– Soon Kyu Choi & Bianca D.M. Wilson, Williams Institute
We have more information about LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness.
In recent study of street outreach programs (n=873), 6.8% of youth participants identified as transgender, and 34% identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or something else. LGBT youth were significantly more likely to experience victimization on the street than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts.
In a survey of homeless youth service providers (n=138), respondents reported that LGBT youth experienced longer periods of homelessness than their straight and cisgender counterparts. They were more likely to report this for the transgender youth they served.
"One of the most important things advocates and providers can do is listen to and respect ways LGBTQ youth build and define family."
– Sassafras Lowrey, Author
We are also working to better understand the issue of LGBTQ youth homelessness.
Led by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, Voices of Youth Count is an innovative research effort designed to link evidence and action by capturing the experiences of runaway and homeless youth, more clearly defining the scope of the issue, and ensuring this knowledge gets into the hands of the national community dedicated to addressing youth homelessness.
Point Source Youth is a working to implement, research and scale three interventions – Family Reconnection, Short-Term Host Homes, and Rapid Rehousing – that successfully prevent youth homelessness in the UK, Canada, Australia, and a handful of US cities. The Point Source Youth Pilot Project will apply the USICH Framework to End Homelessness in a workable, scalable, and measurable effort to fund and implement these three interventions, with the ultimate goal of expanding the project into a number of localities across the US.
"If we truly want to end youth homelessness, government, funders, providers, and youth will need to come together."
– Katie Hong, Director, Youth Homelessness, Raikes Foundation
We are no longer only focused on crisis response.
In the summer of 2014, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched the LGBTQ Youth Homelessness Prevention Initiative in Hamilton County, OH and Harris County, TX. HUD initiated this effort in collaboration with four federal partners—the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Justice, and USICH. In addition, the True Colors Fund and American Institutes for Research (AIR) serve in a capacity building role.
The initiative’s two objectives included (1) facilitating better local collaboration between stakeholders working with youth and (2) informing national strategies for preventing homelessness among LGBTQ youth.
"We must commit to the work of ending the racism, homophobia, cisgenderism, and transphobia that have led to homelessness."
– Marc Dones & Jeffrey Olivet, Center for Social Innovation
We understand the multiple intersecting factors that cause LGBTQ youth to experience homelessness.
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. The systems meant to serve them – juvenile justice, homelessness, child welfare, health care, immigration, and education – often don’t take into account their specific circumstances, which can result in their needs not being met. But the conversation is changing. Leaders in homelessness advocacy, research, and service provision are speaking out about racism, poverty, and identity as they related to youth homelessness. As the experts of these lived experiences, the youth panelists at the 2015 State of Out Youth, shared their perspectives.
The knowledge we’ve obtained guides us to collective action and focuses our collective energy in new ways. At the Intersections brings together service providers, advocates, young people, researchers, and policy makers to share insights, data, and experiential knowledge. Their expertise, contained within this report, deepens our understanding and points us towards solutions. Do you have ideas for how to improve this report, or would you like to share solutions that have worked in your community to improve the lives of LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness? We’d like to hear from you!