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priorities are such a nuisance

February 5, 2007

As if I needed another reason to be irritated that so much gay attention and resources go towards gay marriage. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) just released a report which documented the state of homeless LGBTQ youth in the US. And it is not a pretty picture. Shocked? I didn’t think so.

The full report is very long but the executive summary is short – pages 7-13.

Highlights:

· Between 20 and 40% of homeless youth identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

· Personal drug usage, family drug usage, and the likelihood of enrolling in a treatment program are all higher for LGB homeless youth than for their heterosexual peers.

· LGBT homeless youth are seven times more likely than their heterosexual peers to be victims of a crime.

· LGBT youth who end up in the juvenile and criminal justice systems…are disproportionately the victims of harassment and violence, including rape.

· Some reports indicate that one in five transgender individuals need or are at risk of needing homeless shelter assistance.

· Homeless youth programs have been grossly under funded, contributing to a shortfall of available spaces for youth who need support. In 2004 alone, due to this lack of funding, more than 2,500 youth were denied access to a TLP [transitional living program] for which they were otherwise qualified. Additionally, 4,200 youth were turned away from Basic Center Programs, which provide family reunification services and emergency shelters. (emphasis mine)

Some anecdotes follow about the experiences of LGBT homeless youth in the shelter system. The study determined that “the majority of existing shelters and other care systems are not providing safe and effective services to LGBT homeless youth.”

I know that the stories below are sensationalistic and also not representative of what goes on, but despite that I think they’re important to read, if only for how unbelievable they are.

At one residential placement facility in Michigan, LGBT teens, or those suspected of being LGBT, were forced to wear orange jumpsuits to alert staff and other residents. At another transitional housing placement, staff removed the bedroom door of an out gay youth, supposedly to ward off any homosexual behavior. The second bed in the room was left empty and other residents were warned that if they misbehaved they would have to share the room with the “gay kid.”

Also completely frightening is the fact that according to the study, many LGBT teens purposely become infected with HIV because “they would then be eligible for specific housing funds reserved for HIV-positive homeless people in need.”

The study ends with a number of recommendations on the federal, state/local, and practitioner levels for how to move forward.

City-specific statistics are available here, full study is here.

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2 comments

  1. Do you think it’s an issue of kids being kicked out of the house for their sexual identity? As a mother- that’s the first thing that came to my mind. It horrifies me to think that a kid would be thrown out for that.


  2. Rootietoot, that is definitely one of the big issues. According to the study (quoted from the executive summary):

    Family conflict is the primary cause of homelessness for all youth, LGBT or straight. Specifically, familial conflict over a youth’s sexual orientation or gender identity is a significant factor that leads to homelessness or the need for
    out-of-home care. According to one study, 50 percent of gay teens
    experienced a negative reaction from their parents when they came
    out and 26 percent were kicked out of their homes.



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