It is unfathomable that as we begin 2019, LGBTQ2S youth homelessness continues to be an unaddressed issue in most parts of Canada.
As many as 40% of young people experiencing homelessness across Canada identify as LGBTQ2S. These statistics likely vary across the country and may be higher or lower in different communities. We still do not know because we have only recently started collecting the data. Even when we do collect inclusive data, numerous young people are missed for a variety of reasons, such as not accessing services, due to safety concerns. Widespread homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia continue to be an everyday reality for many, resulting in situations where queer and trans youth do not feel safe accessing the services that are supposed to provide support to all young people. Hidden homelessness also remains a significant issue among LGBTQ2S youth, especially for those living in rural and remote communities; making it difficult for them to be included in homelessness counts and statistics. Some LGBTQ2S youth are more likely to experience homelessness and poverty than others. For example, Indigenous queer and trans youth, and queer and trans youth of colour experience homelessness at disproportionate rates. This is not a “big city” problem – LGBTQ2S youth and young adults exist everywhere, in rural and urban communities, across the country, which is why we need to ensure that all programs are LGBTQ2S safe, affirming and competent, and serve all young people regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
How are we supposed to know who is accessing our programs and who is experiencing homelessness if point-in-time counts, data collection tools, and key forms, including intake forms, do not include LGBTQ2S identities?
There is a significant need for data that can help us better understand and address homelessness among the LGBTQ2S population. If we don’t ask inclusive questions, we will not collect accurate data. Too many opportunities to collect inclusive data have been missed over the years, but if we ask the right questions, not only will people feel included, but we will learn more about how to appropriately respond to issues regarding homelessness. The second Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) Coordinated Point-in-Time (PiT) Count, Everyone Counts 2018 marks significant progress towards that objective. The 2018 count included, for the first time, sexual orientation and gender identity questions. For more information, check out the LGBTQ2S PiT Count Toolkit.
National, provincial and municipal plans to end homelessness and government policies need to prioritize LGBTQ2S youth homelessness and address the circumstances of LGBTQ2S youth across Canada, including those living in rural communities, Indigenous youth, and newcomers.
By making a commitment to prioritize LGBTQ2S youth, we can create inclusive environments in support services and housing programs where youth can bring their full authentic selves. When plans to end homelessness and government policies prioritize disproportionately represented populations, including LGBTQ2S youth and Indigenous youth, they create life-saving policies.
We will not end homelessness until we make LGBTQ2S youth and young adults a priority.