Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

300,000 to 400,000 LGBT Youth Facing Homelessness Each Year

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | June 22, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, The Movement
Tags: Center for American Progress, LGBT homeless, LGBT homeless youth

The Center for American Progress released a report yesterday on LGBT youth homelessness and the federal response to it. lgbthomeless-01.jpg

It is not a pretty picture.

According to the report, there are approximately 1.6 million to 2.8 million homeless young people in the United States, and estimates suggest that disproportionate numbers of those youth are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

The portion of the homeless youth population who are gay or transgender is estimated to be 20 to 40 percent, although gay and transgender youth comprise only 5 to 10 percent of the overall youth population.

Here's a few numbers:

320,000 to 400,000: A conservative estimate of the number of gay and transgender youth facing homelessness each year.

14.4: The average age that lesbian and gay youth in New York become homeless.

13.5: The average age that transgender youth in New York become homeless.

We must come face to face with this reality and begin to address it. We must not become inured. More info, and how to help, after the jump.

The report can be found here. It is extremely well written, and is an engaging mix of facts, individual stories, policy and history. Well worth reading.

The information in the report is shocking and saddening. Of the approximately $4.2 billion the government spends annually on homeless assistance programs, less than 5 percent of this funding, $195 million, is allocated for homeless children and youth.

Even less actually goes to serve unaccompanied homeless youth. Further, each year the federal government spends $44 billion on rental assistance, public housing, and affordable housing programs, yet less than 1 percent of these funds, only $44 million, is allocated for homeless youth housing assistance.

Children on the street, looking for comfort, looking for solace, looking for food, looking for shelter, looking for a friendly face, looking for love -- and where can they turn?

I, as an adult, found myself after transition without friends, without family, without job or material resources. It was terrifying, frightening, soul-killing. Did I turn to unsuitable people and places and things to try to stem the well of tears from my descent into the maelstrom?

Yes.

And I was 36 years old, with education and other racial and class privileges.

Imagine a 13 year old trying to cope with social abandonment, with the material and emotional resources of a 13 year old.

Also from the report:

  • Homelessness disrupts a young person's normal development, often leading to issues in mental and physical health, educational attainment, and behavior.
  • Sixty-two percent of gay and transgender homeless youth attempt suicide compared to 29 percent of their heterosexual homeless peers.
  • The Ruth Ellis Center, an organization that exclusively serves gay and transgender homeless youth in Detroit, reported in 2006 that more than 60 percent of their high school age youth population had dropped out of school due to bullying or discrimination.
  • A full 58 percent of gay homeless youth in Midwestern cities had been sexually victimized.
  • 44 percent of homeless gay youth reported being approached to engage in sex in order to meet their basic needs.
  • A 2004 study found that gay homeless youth were more likely to suffer from major depression than heterosexual homeless youth, and lesbian homeless youth were more likely to have post-traumatic-stress syndrome than heterosexual homeless young women.
  • A 2006 study found that 42 percent of gay homeless youth abuse alcohol compared to 27 percent of heterosexual youth.
  • Injection-drug use is significantly more common for gay homeless youth than heterosexual homeless youth.
  • Homeless gay and transgender youth also report higher rates of unprotected sex than heterosexual homeless youth, as well as higher rates of HIV infection.

This report shows how imperative it is to address the plight of our youth. The conditions to which our young people are subjected are nothing less than criminal.

Whenever I hear about this issue, my resolve to get involved becomes stronger. I think about my own son, who has grown up into a wonderful young man. The thought of his being mistreated makes me angry; and it makes no difference that the youth being tortured by society through abandonment and homelessness are not my own.

One of the programs designed to shelter homeless LGBT youth is the Ali Forney Center in New York City. The work they do is nothing short of amazing. You can read more (and more importantly, donate) here.


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One of the big problems homeless lgbt youth and adults face is that most federal funds assigned to help them are funneled into religious based programs.I believe there is an opportunity for lgbt leaders to request federal money for homeless programs in cities across the US to offset the amount given to churches.In Desmoines Iowa of the three shelters that I know of two are religious based and are not tolerant of open lgbt males.The third one isn't all that tolerant either especially for a trans person and they do have prayer at most evening meals.

I, as an adult, found myself after transition without friends, without family, without job or material resources. It was terrifying, frightening, soul-killing. Did I turn to unsuitable people and places and things to try to stem the well of tears from my descent into the maelstrom?

In late 2001, having been permanently disabled that summer due to back injuries, I pooled all my remaining assets with three other women of history to start Gallae Central House for women in exactly the situation you were in. We took in a lot of street girls from NYC, few like you came. We got zero support for the communities.....worse than zero, we were trashed over and over for our efforts. Two similar projects began shortly afterwards and both quickly folded. We stayed at it for five years. My reward?......after five years I was driven from that home, over 1/2 of my personal possessions stolen or destroyed and found myself not quite able to support myself on my poverty level SSI benefits by TG identified people. One of them raped me, another physically abused me for months.

No one wants to hear this.

The TGs filled the house with crack addicts from the city. They destroyed five years worth of renovations tearing out wiring and plumbing and nearly burning the house down twice. After a year, most left and I took the property back. That year of exile from the home I built to share was the only time in my life I seriously considered suicide.

The other two efforts depended on donations to keep their doors open, donations that never came. Our effort was Pagan oriented so no Federal "faith based incentive" funding was available for us. We did our effort on a shoestring budget. We still do but now we focus on non trans women in need.

Like I said, no one wants to hear this but the community that has seemly endless dollars for expensive conferences has nothing for any effort to help the poorest in their midst. Along with TransFM, we organized the only known LGBt Katrina relief fund and only raised about 1500 bucks despite a national campaign. That small amount did make a big difference to some, but another lesson was learned.

Sylvia Rivera had the same problem back in the 1960, love.

She worked and worked for the Gay Liberation Front and other early advocacy groups, but the minute she asked for help from them for her own group Street Action Transvestite Radicals (STAR), she was repeatedly turned away.

STAR was started by I believe her and Marsha P Johnson to help NYC's street queens have a place to crash, eat a decent meal, and recover from a bad trip (this was the '60s, remember...).

I do wish the local and state agencies dealing with the homeless would divest themselves of funneling money to the religious institutions and their innate prejudices and start helping out non-aligned charities and facilities.

Richard Gaylor | June 23, 2010 12:20 PM

I am saddened that most of the homelessness results from christian homes where misunderstanding of the "love of Christ" compels them to rid themselves of household sin. I understand the pain of youth having had to hide my being gay from the family. My peers in school figured me out. I took my first beating at age 15 at the hands of 3 bigger guys. Fortunately I still had a loving family to go home to.
How may I help is always my questions? I am not a person of great financial means but of a caring, loving, and giving heart. I am gay and understand the pain of our young family members. I would love to become more involved in this area of tremendous need. I live in Reading, PA, which is around 150 miles from NYC and about 50 miles from Philadelphia. Any input from the community???

When will the LGBTQ community put as much energy and money towards this issue as they do marriage equality? Imagine what $100 million could do.

Unfortunately some people see wisdom in putting the cart before the horse.I don't believe they do it on purpose but I think they come from more supportive familys and maybe haven't had to suffer the economic losses and levels of discrimiation others have for being lgbt.

We had some homeless agy youth living under a bridge. They would go to the library to read and get warm and dry. One youth was reading a Seattle paper that supports gays when a man camed in, saw the youth reading "that disgusting paper" and demanded the library stop having it. he also stopped the library from supporting any support GLBT talks.
I talked to the head librarian and the one who oversaw all the county libraries. They said they were sympathic but could not change their homophobic policies.
I would sit in the library a number of hours reading the Time magizine on gay youth that had it's picture and article title on the cover. I was hoping this "righteous" man would walk in and see what I was reading and make a comment-and I surely would have commented back.

This surprises me on a number of levels:

1) How can *one man* be able to ban not only a gay paper but any LGBT talk? There are supposed to be procedures with the bureaucracy to prevent this.
2) Where was Seattle's vaunted liberal community? They should've been protesting every day until both were reinstated.
3) Libraries are dedicated to the expression of ALL viewpoints!! The Seattle library system is violating that tenant!

You are correct but hate prevailed. The local librarian tried to help me get this resolved through her superiors with no luck. Also it was a Seattle paper in a local Pierce county library which is home to Sen. Pam Roach. She is a Christian fundamentalist and bigoted against gays. I have written to her personally a number of times, including the wish that she would support hate crime legislation that included sexual orientation. I did get a reply from her on that and she said gays were already protected [ie, assualt against anyone is a crime-a handy excuse to remain a bigot]. I work with suicidal gay youth. Most are Christian and some as young as 12. My stories about the abandonment, rejection and hate these kids face falls on deaf ears of the "godly" fundamentals. Not all my Christian, fundamental friends are like that but the pastors, politicians and those who want to cater to the religious right are. To heck with the love of God-their only Christianity lies in their votes and prejudical judgement.