Homelessness among LGBT Youth: A National Concern
For many of us, January is a time to think about plans for the new year and future goals, surrounded by family and loved ones in a supportive and meaningful way. This scenario is far from the reality for many drug addicted and homeless youth in the United States. January is National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week, reminding us that even as we think about what we are grateful for in our lives, we should consider all the work that needs to be done to improve the welfare of this vulnerable group.
Approximately 1.6 million youths in the U.S. experience homelessness for at least one night each year (according to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation). Additionally, 550,000 unaccompanied youth under the age of 24 are homeless for a week or longer; about 380,000 of these youth are younger than 18. These numbers demonstrate a great need for responses to short- and long-term homelessness among youth.
BBC joins with MercyCare and AHCCCS to Curb LGBT Addiction and Homelessness (internal link)
One group that is particularly at risk for homelessness is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth. LGBTQ youth are often homeless because they were rejected by their families, schools, and communities for their sexual orientation or gender identity. In a national survey of homeless centers and agencies that serve youth, it was reported that LGBT youth comprise 40 percent of the clientele served. In fact, one in five transgender people in their 30s report having been homeless at some point in their lives. These numbers show that homelessness among youth who are LGBT is much more than a niche problem; understanding and reducing homelessness among these youth is a crucial part of understanding and reducing homelessness, period.
Besides being at greater risk for homelessness, LGBT youth are more likely to become homeless at younger ages and struggle dramatically at much younger ages with addiction issues. LGBT youth are also more likely to be sexually assaulted on the streets and in shelters. In fact, in one study, 58 percent of lesbian, gay, or bisexual homeless youth reported having been sexually victimized, compared with 33 percent of heterosexual homeless youth.
BBC Uniquely Qualified for LGBT Substance Abuse Treatment (internal link)
Homeless LGBT youth may be less accepted in shelters, programs, and foster homes. Among homeless transgender adults, 55 percent have reported being harassed by shelter staff; 29 percent have reported being turned away by shelters because of their gender identity; and 22 percent have reported being sexually assaulted by residents or staff. Although these statistics do not directly address what happens to transgender youth at homeless shelters, they paint a grim picture of what these and other LGBT youth might face.
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