June is Pride month so I thought that it would be appropriate to spend some time discussing the growing number of LGBTQ youth who are experiencing homelessness in the U.S.A. Roughly 40% of youth who are homeless in the U.S. are LGBTQ-identifying (HRC 2017). Many cities in the U.S. have seen drastic increases in the number of LGBTQ youth who are experiencing homelessness in the past decade. LGBTQ youth who are homeless are more likely than their heterosexual and cisgendered counterparts to experience high rates of mental health issues, STDs and STIs, physical and sexual abuse, and substance use (Page 2017, Keuroghlian et. al. 2014).
While LGBTQ youth homelessness has been a significant issue for quite some time, research on LGBTQ youth who are homeless has just started to catch up with reality. In this post, I would like to highlight some of the insightful and useful research that has recently been published on this issue. These articles span disciplines, methodologies, and theoretical frameworks. But, since homelessness is a complex issue that demands an understanding of how complex the world is, I believe that it is necessary for policymakers, policy administrators, and policy analysts to examine research from all disciplines when trying to figure out how to best serve homeless LGBTQ youth.
First, Michelle Page’s 2017 article titled “Forgotten Youth: Homeless LGBT Youth of Color and the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act” is critical work that is worth reading. Page examines the understudied experiences of LGBTQ youth of color. She makes research and policy recommendations for how to better serve LGBT homeless youth of color who often face additional injustices and challenges than their white LGBT homeless youth counterparts. Page draws attention to an area that needs more investigation in this concise piece, writing: “Legislative invisibility is the phenomenon that when certain classifications of people, like LGBT, are not specifically addressed in a statute, they reap no benefit from it even though it is meant to benefit everyone. This type of invisibility is a consequence of implementing overly generalized policies, which lack nuance, to extend to homeless youth on a national scale. Laws based solely on the experiences of one identity group, when members within the group are also members of varying subgroups, can only provide a limited amount of support.” (p. 20).
Second, the 2016 article by Elaine M. Maccio and Kristin M. Ferguson titled “Services to LGBTQ runaway and homeless youth: Gaps and recommendations” reveals the results from studying 19 non-profit and government organizations that are serving LGBTQ homeless youth. These agencies receive money from the federal Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) to design and implement programs that range in objectives from housing to education. Maccio and Ferguson’s research identifies and explains gaps in the current service environment and suggests alternative methods to better serve LGBTQ youth who are homeless. One of the interesting observations made by the authors is that LGBTQ youth who are housed in both emergency and transitionary housing programs with youth who are not LGBTQ-identifying are less likely to stay in the housing programs largely due to harassment by their non-LGBTQ peers. The authors recommend that more programs try to use supportive housing models for LGBTQ youth. They recommend and highlight models that have been successfully implemented and can be designed in other programs.
Third, in the 2014 article “Out on the Street: A Public Health and Policy Agenda for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth Who Are Homeless,” authors Alex S. Keuroghlian, Derri Shtasel, and Ellen L. Bassuk examine prevalent and dangerous health trends within the LGBTQ homeless youth community. The goal of this article is to develop “responsible practices and policies” (p. 66) for addressing issues facing LGBTQ youth who are homeless such as mental health and substance use problems, suicidal acts, violent victimization, and a range of HIV risk behaviors. The authors break down the research by subpopulations, identifying the most serious risks and health issues for transgender, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth populations individually. They also show that race and ethnicity can influence a homeless LGBTQ youth’s health outcomes. Keuroghlian, Shtasel, and Bassuk draw attention to the need for increased HIV education amongst homeless LGBTQ youth and they identify some promising methods for designing and implementing health education programs. For example, they discuss new internet-based initiatives that are designed to reduce HIV transmission amongst LGBTQ youth who are homeless (p. 68).
Fourth, in the 2014 edition of Young Adult Library Services, Jama Shelton and Julie Winkelstein published an article titled “Librarians and Social Workers: Working Together for Homeless LGBTQ Youth.” Not only is this article a useful guide for librarians and library staff, it is also a fantastic example of interdisciplinary work. This article shows that when people work together across fields, industries, and disciplines, LGBTQ youth who are homeless have the best chance at receiving the highest quality services.
There are other excellent research articles and policy resources on this topic that are emerging. Even as I write this blog post and even as you read it, there is probably someone who is working diligently to try to find creative methods for serving LGBTQ youth who are homeless. However, there is always more work to be done to assist LGBTQ youth who are homeless. Whether you are a scholar, an activist, a government official, a business leader, or a non-profit representative, you too can try to find ways to support LGBTQ youth who are homeless. I have provided some resources below that may be helpful to those who would like to support LGBTQ youth who are homeless and to those LGBTQ-identifying young people who are experiencing homelessness and looking for resources.
Note: All of the hyperlinks in this article were accessible to the public on 6/26/17 but the links may have expired since then. I do my best to maintain and update expired links, but please let me know (by leaving a comment in the comments section below) if a certain link has expired. Thank you!
If you would like more information on LGBTQ youth homelessness in general or if you need city-specific or county-specific resources, check out the National Coalition for the Homeless’ LGBT Homelessness project: http://nationalhomeless.org/issues/lgbt
True Colors Fund: https://truecolorsfund.org/our-issue/
If you are a young LGBTQ person experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles, check out the Los Angeles LGBT Center: https://lalgbtcenter.org/social-service-and-housing/youth/homelessness
Human Rights Campaign. “LGBTQ Youth Homelessness” (2017): http://www.hrc.org/resources/lgbt-youth-homelessness
Keuroghlian, Alex S., Derri Shtasel, and Ellen L. Bassuk. “Out on the street: a public health and policy agenda for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth who are homeless.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 84.1 (2014): 66.
Maccio, Elaine M., and Kristin M. Ferguson. “Services to LGBTQ runaway and homeless youth: Gaps and recommendations.” Children and Youth Services Review 63 (2016): 47-57.
Page, Michelle. “Forgotten Youth: Homeless LGBT Youth of Color and the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act.” Nw. JL & Soc. Pol’y 12 (2017): 17-92.
Shelton, Jama, and Julie Winkelstein. “Librarians and social workers: Working together for homeless LGBTQ youth.” Young Adult Library Services 13.1 (2014): 20.