Expand Public Awareness

It is important for service agencies to work to improve public awareness about LGBTQI2-S youth. This page is part of resource package created to help programs better serve youth who are LGBTQI2-S and homeless.

This page is part of resource package created to help programs better serve youth who are LGBTQI2-S and homeless. It was derived from the results of a Listening Tour of programs serving this population. Visit the Listening Tour Page for more information, or read the draft report: Learning from the Field: Programs Serving LGBTQI2-S Youth Experiencing Homelessness.

“There is such a need for communities to understand the dynamics of LGBT youth homelessness. These young people feel isolation on so many levels—when they look for work, go to school, access social services—it spills everywhere. Increased awareness on a larger scale could help reduce family and community rejection.” –youth provider

Many Listening Tour programs emphasize that it is important to work to improve public awareness about LGBTQI2-S youth. Across programs, staff and youth are involved in various public awareness activities. Key lessons learned in expanding public awareness are highlighted below:

Create events and opportunities to provide public education. The Ruth Ellis Center suggested hosting community education panels to support an open dialogue. “Broader education for the public is important for improving the lives of LGBT youth. We need to have more discussion forums for providers and parents to work through issues so that there is a community of support. Understanding follows awareness.”

Larkin Street Youth Services has also focused on increasing awareness with the adult LGBTQI2-S community. “We need to build a strong spirit of collaboration between the work that we are doing and the broader gay community. There is a great potential for us to really draw on those resources to expand the work we do.” The UCAN Host Home Program shared, “We know that we need to mobilize all of our community, our gay, lesbian and trans folks, and our allies, the people who really care and want to help make a difference. Having this team of people helps us extend our message and our reach a hundred fold.”

The Ruth Ellis Center also emphasized the importance of “taking any opportunity we can to educate.” Staff often take calls from concerned community members and use the conversations as teaching points. As one staff person shared, “…at times we get calls with urban myths about lesbian gangs disrupting the peace, and we take time to talk with the caller about legitimate LGBTQ issues.” The Ruth Ellis Center also work with schools. “We go to high schools and meet with counselors, share information during lunch hours, and engage in dialogues after school. The schools are usually really happy to see us because they see the needs of their students and don’t always know how to help.”

Educate and train fellow service providers. Larkin Street Youth Services uses training strategies to increase public awareness. Staff conduct “terminology presentations” across the country, hoping to make service providers feel comfortable and knowledgeable about the language of LGBTQI2-S issues. Youth on Fire, UCAN Host Home Program, Outside In, and The Drop In Center at Tulane conduct similar public awareness trainings in their communities. (For more information about training staff, see Develop a Culturally Competent Staff)

Conduct outreach to community groups, landlords, and employers. The Ruth Ellis Center reaches out to inform schools, community services, and the child welfare system about their services for LGBTQI2-S youth. The Executive Director explained, “we’ve created a reputation now that if you give us a call, we can help. We get three to four calls a week, from parents who want to remove their kids from home, or from young people who don’t feel safe with their families.” Many of the programs also conduct outreach with landlords and employers to de-stigmatize sexual and gender minority youth.

Publication Date: 
Rockville, MD, USA