Blog Post #29: Homelessness and LGBTQ Youth

By Krupa Patel

Forty percent of homeless youth who receive assistance from some agency or institution have self-identified as LGBT and thirty percent of street outreach clients identified as LGBT.[1] While some of these youths face homelessness unrelated to their LGBTQ status, many attribute homelessness to the challenges they faced specifically because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.[2] Many of these youths become homeless because they are forced out of their homes or runaway because of the stigma, prejudice, and abuse they face because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.[3] Although strides have been made to combat the criminalization and discrimination of youth who identify as LGBTQ, it was not enough to change the disproportionate percentage of LGBTQ youth that are homeless and prevent them from falling into the hands of the juvenile justice system.

LGBTQ youth are more likely to fall into homelessness because of the discrimination they face by service agencies that are unable or unwilling to meet the needs of LGBTQ homeless youth.[4] Currently, no existing federal programs have specified processes or services that are directed toward helping homeless LGBTQ youth with their unique needs. Additionally, a lack of protective measures to protect these youths from discrimination exacerbates the problem.[5]

The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness attributes the increase in LGBTQ youth homelessness to the increase in youth declaring their gender identity or sexual orientation at a younger age.[6] While this is a good thing, the increase in youths “coming out” at an earlier age has increased their likelihood of becoming homeless because they do not have the resources that would allow them to survive when they were no longer able to call their homes and schools safe spaces.[7]

These youths are then further victimized when they are forced to take takes steps to survive that put them in danger of being sent to prison, trafficked, or injured.[8] Policies that foster better understanding and more effective protective measures for LGBTQ youth must be enacted and undertaken by families, schools, and service agencies if we are to lower the disproportionate rate of homeless youths that are identified at LGBTQ. These policies need to start at a grassroots level and effectuate change within the education system so that LGBTQ youth are not discriminated against, bullied, and harassed in schools based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.[9] Legislation like the Safe Schools Improvement Act need to be passed so that LGBTQ youth have federal legislation that promotes effective methods of increasing safe spaces and personnel that they could turn to in times of need.[10] The Safe Schools Improvement Act would make schools that receive funds from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act a safer place for students by requiring them to adopt codes of conduct for bullying and harassment.[11] Although passing legislation will not fix the problem, it will help bring the issues to a larger stage and create a roadmap for more policies and measures that protect LGBTQ youth and prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place

 

[1] See LGBT Homelessness, National Coalition for the Homeless,http://nationalhomeless.org/issues/lgbt/ (last visited April 8, 2015).

[2] See id.

[3] LGBTQ Youth Homelessness in Focus, United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.http://usich.gov/issue/lgbt_youth/lgbtq_youth_homelessness_in_focus/(last visited April 8, 2015).

[4] See id.

[5] See id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] See Lonnie James Bean, LGBTQ Youth at High Risk of Becoming Human Trafficking Victims, Administration for Children & Families (June 26, 2013), http://www.acf.hhs.gov/blog/2013/06/lgbtq-youth-at-high-risk-of-becoming-human-trafficking-victims.

[9] Andrew Phifer and Jeff Krehely, Gay and Transgender Homeless Youth Face Huge Obstacles, Center for American Progress (July 12, 2012),https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/report/2012/07/12/11954/gay-and-transgender-homeless-youth-face-huge-obstacles/.

[10] See id.

[11] Resources, Human Rights Watch,http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/safe-schools-improvement-act (last visited Apr. 11, 2015).