By Lauren Palarino – Media and Events Coordinator
Homeless LGBTQ Youth
One of the most prevalent communities in the homeless population are those who are LGBTQ. In statistics with homeless youth who are aged 12 to 24 years old, LGBTQ individuals have 40% of the population despite them being only 7% of the general youth population. Once they become homeless they have higher risks of unsafe sexual behavior, victimization, mental health issues, and a predictor of engaging in crime than their housed counterparts.
Why are they homeless?
The largest reason for them being homeless is due to family conflict. If a child comes a religious family there are much more likely of being kicked out and rejected entirely and having to fend for themselves. Jim Theofelis of the Mockingbird Society, which is an advocate for homeless youth says:
“It sounds so paradoxical, but the kid who’s been abused and neglected from childhood, in this very perverse way, they’re ready for the trauma that’s to come on the streets, but queer youth who grew up in a family where they were taken care of, and there was ice cream in the freezer at night, they face an extra challenge of really not being prepared for the culture of the streets or the foster-care system.”
So many remain in the closet to have the safety of a home at the risk of never revealing their true identity. And once marriage equality became law, there was actually a spike in kids turning up at homeless shelters geared towards queer youth due to them deciding coming out and their families edging them out or fully kicking them out. With the coming out age becoming lower on average, youth will come out to their families when they are still economically reliant on them, which could be detrimental if the family does not accept them and forces them out. Half of all teens get a negative reaction from their families and one in four are kicked out. This is why there is a rise in LGBTQ youth homeless that shelters are seeing today. Even if laws are starting to protect them and giving them more rights, it does not mean that families are going to be accepting.
What can we do to help?
How should shelters go about helping LGBTQ people? An example of a success is the Lost-n-Found shelter in Atlanta, Georgia. It was founded in 2011 and created a space for LGBTQ homeless youth to go to, to find shelter and programs designed for their specific needs and safety from violence and judgment. It’s spaces like these that able to help them the most, LGBTQ spaces allow for youth to learn about their identity and understand themselves with higher success rates than other shelters. In Denver, Urban Peak is a safe space for LGBTQ youth and provides support for many homeless youth in Denver and many volunteering and donating opportunities.