We know little about the LGBTQ2S (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) adult homeless population. This lack of knowledge is surprising, given that it is well documented that LGBTQ2S youth are overrepresented among homeless youth. Although determining the number of LGBTQ2S homeless youth is difficult, studies have reported anywhere from 15 to 30 percent of homeless youth may identify as LGBTQ2S. These alarmingly high rates are of concern as LGBTQ2S homeless youth often have poorer mental health, and experience increased substance use and victimization while on the street compared to heterosexual homeless youth.

Despite this growing knowledge of the LGBTQ2S homeless youth population, it is not known how LGBTQ2S adults experience homelessness. Recently, Canadian Point in Time Counts have demonstrated that there are indeed LGBTQ2S adults in the homeless population. The 2013 City of Toronto’s Homeless Street Needs Assessment found that 9% of their survey respondents identified as LGBTQ2S. In 2015, Winnipeg’s Street Census found that close to 11% of their over 700 adult participants identified as LGBTQ2S. Recently, Vancouver’s Homeless Count demonstrated that 13% of respondents identified as LGBTQ2S.

What we do know from the little amount of literature that is available on LGBTQ2S homeless adults is that they have unique physical and mental health challenges, particularly concerning HIV and substance use. Despite these unique challenges, there are few examples of services tailored to the homeless LGBTQ2S adult population and we do not know how LGBTQ2S adults enter and exit homelessness. This is where my presentation for CAEH 2016 steps in. 


I will be presenting results from one of the first studies conducted with homeless LGBTQ2S adults in Canada. The qualitative study was conducted with twenty participants who identified as LGBTQ2S in Ottawa. Participants were recruited from local shelters and drop-in centres. Of the twenty participants, 11 identified as male, six identified as female, and three identified as transgender females. In terms of sexual orientation, the majority of participants (50%) identified as bisexual, with 30% identifying as gay, 15% identifying as lesbian, and 5% identifying as heterosexual.

I asked the participants about their entries into homelessness, their service use experiences, and their strategies for exiting homelessness. Preliminary results show that entries into homelessness were diverse and included loss of employment, substance use, and interpersonal conflict. The overwhelming majority of participants felt supported by the homeless service agencies they used and felt comfortable talking to staff members as these agencies. The majority of participants also expressed an interest in having LGBTQ2S-specific drop-ins and activities made available as well as having access to LGBTQ2S-identified staff. Exiting homelessness was a challenge for some participants as they felt discriminated against by landlords due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

This brief overview of my presentation for CAEH 2016 sheds light on an underserved community within the homeless population. The results from this study will help to inform service providers and policymakers on ways to better support homeless LGBTQ2S adults. I look forward to engaging with attendees of my session at CAEH and learning from their own experiences.

See you all in London!

This blog post is part of our series which highlights sessions of the 2016 National Conference on Ending Homelessness. Hear John Ecker speak on Thursday, November 3rd at 10AM on the topic of the causes and conditions of homelessness as experienced by LGBTQ2S adult populations. Learn more about this upcoming conference presented by CAEH.