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