Homelessness can take many forms among youth populations. From living on the streets to couch surfing to living in cars, Youth suffering from housing instability often end up living in conditions not meant for human habitation. Unfortunately, LGBTQ Youth are disproportionately affected by homelessness and housing insecurity.
Despite making up less than 10% of the population, LGBTQ Youth make up anywhere from 20% to 40% of the homeless youth population each year.2 That equates to LGBTQ Youth having a 120% higher risk of being homeless when compared to their heterosexual peers.1 Family rejection has been linked to being a strong contributing factor to this disparity. The alarming disparity in the experiences of LGBTQ Youth is a great cause for concern.
Homelessness and housing instability in one's early life can have a strong and lasting impact on their development. Homelessness in adolescence has been linked to a decrease in mental health and physical health, increased risk of sexual abuse, increased risk of substance dependencies, increased discrimination, and lower levels of long-term educational attainment, among other things.
The top reason found for housing insecurity among the LGBTQ Youth population is family rejection because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Followed by physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; and financial and emotional neglect.2 Once a minor is homeless, it can become a fight to survive. We must, as a society, do everything we can to prevent LGBTQ Youth homelessness.
While the Youth Pride Association does not operate any programs directed at this issue, we aim at addressing the root causes of homelessness through our existing programs and collaborations with organizations that provide relief for homeless populations. LGBTQ Youth benefits from the same thing all adolescence benefit from, a supportive and stable home environment. Additionally, the American Psychological Association (APA) emphasizes that providing an open and accepting school environment that is understanding of the nature of sexual orientation will likely decrease the disparities in physical health, mental health, and substance abuse between LGBTQ Youth and their heterosexual counterparts.3
Once a teen is homeless, it is essential that inclusive, nondiscriminatory policies be put in place in schools, foster care, and adoption to help mitigate the long-term trauma homeless youth face. It is also vital that schools have policies to promote an accepting and safe environment for all students, to help all youth regardless of their situation achieve academically. Through a positive school climate, the success of all students can be ensured no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.