LGBTQ-Identifying Homeless Youth

homelessness, Homlessness, housing discrimination, Inequality, LGBTQI

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!

Resources:

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 

Lambda Legal: https://www.lambdalegal.org/know-your-rights/article/youth-homeless

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

References:

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.

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“On the Streets” – Los Angeles Times documentary series on homelessness

Homlessness, Inequality, Los Angeles, personal experience

Los Angeles Times reporter Lisa Biagiotti has started a twelve part documentary series on homelessness in Los Angeles. The objective of the series is to connect the staggering statistics on homelessness in Los Angeles with the personal stories of people who are experiencing homelessness in the city.

The documentary is free and accessible to view on youtube, here is the link: ON THE STREETS — a feature documentary on homelessness in L.A.

The series is very effective at showing how varied experiences (and causes) of homelessness can be.

Some of the many quotes from the homeless people who were interviewed by Biagiotti in the film include:

“We’ve only been homeless for about two months…my husband and I had a set back…and then we lost everything, and now we’re down here [skid row].”

“I used to be somebody, now I’m somebody else, you know what I mean? I have a high school diploma and a college degree and they look at me like I’m homeless…I’m not homeless, I’m houseless because I don’t have a house. Homelessness is a state of mind.”

“It’s not sad but if you can’t make a certain amount [of money] and buy and apartment and afford to eat and do other things…you have to [live in your car].”

“My husband got arrested…because a guy attacked me. Now he’s serving 180 days and I ain’t got nowhere to go right now…he [my husband] told me to stay over here by the jail until I get out, but he don’t get out until December 31st and I don’t got no where to go.”

 

 

Equality in Public Transit?

homelessness, Inequality, poverty

Click here to read the NYT article that covers Seattle’s new policy of charging people for public transportation based on their income…This innovative policy attempts to reverse some of the inequality that is inherent in fixed price models of public transportation fares.  Those who are experiencing homelessness and/or those who live below the poverty line struggle to get from place to place paying public transit fares that are targeted at middle income individuals.  With lower fares, Seattle hopes to decrease inequality and encourage the increased use of public transportation by those who struggled to afford it before the new policy.

Bill Moyers and Bob Herbert

Inequality

Award winning journalist Bob Herbert spoke with Bill Moyers last week about his new book titled “Losing Our Way”.  The book chronicles stories of Americans who have faced challenges and struggles during the economic downturn.  Herbert focuses on structural problems in the American economic and political systems.

CLICK HERE to read or watch Bill Moyers’ interview with Bob Herbert

Top 10 Solutions to Cut Poverty and Grow the Middle Class, by Rebecca Vallas and Melissa Boteach

Inequality

CLICK HERE to read the article titled “Top 10 Solutions to Cut Poverty and Grow the Middle Class”, written by Rebecca Vallas and Melissa Boteach, and published on Bill Moyer’s website.  This article details the “Top Ten Solutions to Cut Poverty”–briefly, they are:

1) Create Jobs

2) Raise the minimum wage

3)Increase the EITC for childless workers

4) Support pay equity

5)Provide paid leave and paid sick days

6) Establish work schedules that work

7) Invest in affordable, high quality child care and early education

8) Expand Medicaid

9) Reform the criminal justice system and enact policies that support successful re-entry

10) Do no Harm!

***Read the article for the details!! 🙂

Interactive Poverty Activity

Inequality

As the number of Americans living in poverty grows, “making ends meat” is becoming a challenging task that requires creative financing and many sacrifices.  CLICK HERE to be redirected to http://playspent.org, a site run by Urban Ministries of Durham.  The activity on this website challenges visitors to the site to experience poverty through a series of decisions regarding health, family, jobs, transportation, and housing.  The activity does a good job of highlighting the numerous expenses faced by Americans, and how low wages, low hours, and a limited job market suffocate choices and chances for change for those stuck in poverty.  Check it out!

Homelessness and Poverty are in the News

homelessness, Inequality

Today, I was relieved to see that National Public Radio (NPR) ran two stories on homelessness prevention and progressive ideas for reducing poverty.  Usually, homelessness and poverty only show up in the news if they are topics being covered in ONE story–rarely do two stories that show the nuances of inequality appear in one news cycle.  Today, NPR broke that trend and I applaud them!  The two stories mentioned are:

A ‘Circle’ Of Support Helps Families Stay Out Of Poverty

by PAM FESSLER

http://www.npr.org/2014/09/16/347954335/a-circle-of-support-helps-families-stay-out-of-poverty

AND

Homeless Vets: They’re Not Just Single Men Anymore

by QUIL LAWRENCE

http://www.npr.org/2014/09/16/348715076/homeless-vets-theyre-not-just-single-men-any-more

Now, turning to the important question:

Why don’t more stories about homelessness, poverty, and income inequality appear in daily news cycles?  Why is it that when we do see stories about these important issues, they are singular and rarely in pairs or multiples?