Canada's LGBTQ youth experience a great deal of exclusion and discrimination which can lead a young person to homelessness, addictions and even suicide. The infographic below, created by the Government of Alberta, looks into the adversity the LGBTQ community experiences.
Compared to 26% of heterosexual youth, 44% of LGBTQ youth reported having thoughts of suicide. In addition, 50% of LGBTQ youth reported self-harming behaviours. These numbers reflect the high level of hostility and discrimination that these youth face in their daily lives. Such hostility and discrimination can lead to internalized homophobia: the personal acceptance and endorsement of such stigma.
The implications of poor psychological well-being among LGBTQ youth are clear and are likely to impact all aspects of an individual's life. This includes their ability to socialize and find success in the school setting, to find work, and makes it increasingly difficult to cope with other stressors in their life. The infographic states that 53% of LGBTQ youth felt unsafe at school, compared to just 3% of heterosexual youth. This is a huge, unjustifiable, discrepancy. While the movement for equal rights for the LGBTQ community has made strides in recent years, it's clear that more needs to be done to provide supports for LGBTQ youth within the educational system. Schools should be safe learning environments for all youth.
There are many pathways to homelessness for LGBTQ youth, who represent 30-50% of all homeless youth. Some youth are thrown out of their homes by parents who do not accept their sexual and/or gender identity. Other youth opt to leave their homes in hopes of escaping the discrimination they face on a daily basis.
Many of these youth move to the major urban centres nearby (ex: Toronto for youth living in Southwestern Ontario) in hopes of accessing vital services and supports. However, there are no specialized housing initiatives that meet the needs of LGBTQ youth in Canada. Instead, what these youth find are shelters where their needs are not always met and where they are prone to be victims of further discrimination and/or violence.
LGBTQ youth living in homelessness represent one of the most vulnerable homeless subpopulations. It’s critical that supports such as counselling, educational opportunities, and healthcare services are made more available and accessible to these youth. Developing and funding specialized shelters for LGBTQ youth is an essential step towards ensuring that these youth have the opportunity to find safe and secure places to live. The creation of specialized supports and services will go a long way towards helping these youth realize the plans they have for their lives as they transition into adulthood.