Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are overrepresented in the homeless youth population. It has been estimated that approximately 25-40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ
. A large proportion of youth are either kicked out of the house
or forced to leave home
after coming-out to their family as LGBTQ. Therefore, homophobia and transphobia are major causes of youth homelessness.
There has been extensive research on youth homelessness in Canada
; conversely, there has been minimal investigation into the crisis of LGBTQ youth homelessness, creating a large gap in knowledge in this area. What we do know, however, is that LGBTQ youth homelessness is on the rise, service providers are not fully prepared to deal with situations of homophobia and transphobia, and LGBTQ youth have reported feeling safer on the streets than in the shelter system, due to high rates of homophobic and transphobic violence that occurs in the shelter system, and that both youth and support staff have indicated the need
for specialized services
. Although we have this knowledge, still there is minimal support available and no specialized shelters for LGBTQ youth in all of Canada.
Due to Toronto’s “gay friendly” reputation and because Toronto is also known as the homeless capital of Canada – offering a high number of services to people who are homeless, a lot of LGBTQ youth migrate to Toronto in hopes of finding support and safety. However, the threat of violence and harassment
both on the streets and in the shelter system is much higher for LGBTQ youth because of frequent encounters with homophobia and transphobia, which unfortunately is often ignored or left out of the conversation.
The risks encountered on the streets and in the shelter system by LGBTQ homeless youth versus heterosexual homeless youth differ largely due to regular incidents of homophobic and transphobic violence. Not only are the risks and barriers encountered different, but also the needs of LGBTQ youth differ from those of their heterosexual peers. For example, the challenges of dealing with coming out, trying to form one’s gender and sexual identity, and the burden of social stigma and discrimination, in addition to the everyday stresses of street life, greatly impact the wellbeing of LGBTQ homeless youth. This may be a contributing factor to the dramatically higher risk for suicide and mental health difficulties
experienced by LGBTQ youth.
AUTHOR: Abramovich, Alex (Ilona) (2012) Homeless Hub.