LGBT young people who become homeless face complex, ongoing obstacles

It’s a grave misconception that young people become homeless by choice. The issues that lead someone to become homeless are complex and varied. For at-risk young people, their lives have become emotionally, and often physically, unbearable.

Street Sense reports a high percentage of LGBT youth become homeless as a consequence of persistent obstacles. The US publication reports that although LGBT young people comprise only 10 per cent of the under 18 population, they comprise 40 per cent of homeless young people. Conditions for transgender youth appear to be the most difficult, with 20 per cent of transgender adults in their 30s reporting having been homeless at some point in their lives.

Studies indicate the most common reasons LGBT young people become homeless are: family rejection (including those forced out by their families and those who ran away due to rejection); and physical, emotional or sexual abuse at home. A 2011 survey of over 6,400 transgender adults age 18 and older reported high percentages had been victims of physical or sexual assault (64%), lived in extreme poverty (61%), harassment or bullying in school (51%) and attempted suicide (41%).

Once homeless, life for LGBT young people is even more dangerous than for their non-LGBT counterparts. Fifty-eight per cent report having been sexually assaulted on streets or in shelters, compared to 33% of non-LGBT young people. Conditions for homeless transgender persons are worst of all as they are more likely to have been incarcerated, more likely to have done sex work, to be HIV-positive and to have attempted suicide (69%) than transgender persons who are not homeless. Nearly one-third report having been turned away from shelters because they are transgender, and 42% report being forced to stay in facilities for the wrong gender.

Australian statistics are scant, however Brisbane Youth Service, which has been collecting its own statistics which suggest about 13% of the young people it helps are LGBTIKids Under Cover doesn’t have figures for Australian LGBT homeless young people, however there is little reason to doubt they face similar obstacles. We believe prevention is critical and work to provide young people at risk of homelessness with stable and secure accommodation, keeping them connected with family or carers, and community.

 

[Street Sense is a US publication focusing on homelessness issues and also providing a voice and economic opportunities for homeless people.]

For an Australian perspective, check out Radio National’s Background Briefing program “Queer, Young and Homeless

Young people rarely become homeless by choice