by Victoria Michaels –
The LGBT Homeless Youth Provider Survey conducted in late 2011 through early 2012 collected data to better understand the capacity and capability of organizations providing services for our LGBT homeless young people discovered approximately 40 percent of gay and transgenders were found to be homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless.
The Pallete Fund and the William Institute Researchers piloted the survey and also found that it analyzed the preponderance of gay and transgender youth within the rising youth homeless population. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, each year between 500,000 and 1.6 million youth in the U.S. are homeless or runaways. The final report conglomerates survey data from responses of 354 agencies in the United States that serve youth who are homeless, or are at risk of becoming homeless. These discoveries from the survey should awaken everyone and raise serious concern by constituting awareness of this growing epidemic that gay and transgender youth do indeed establish a significant, incommensurate portion of the homeless youth population.
Even more noteworthy, this study serves as a reminder why service providers, advocates, and policymakers who work to end overall youth homelessness should take into account the unique, exclusive, and individual needs of gay and transgender youth.
Nearly 7 in 10 (68%) respondents indicated that family rejection was a major factor contributing to LGBT youth homelessness, making it the most cited factor. More than half (54%) of respondents indicated that abuse in their family was another important factor contributing to LGBT homelessness. Fortunately, nearly 80 percent of the service providers who work with clients under the age of 18 are doing family acceptance-related work, though only about half of providers working with older youth offer such resources.
In a shocking determination, the survey found that of all youth clients who received services, an astounding 30 percent identify as gay or lesbian and 9 percent as bisexual. Providers also reported that 1 percent identify as “other gender,” while another 1 percent of transgender youth identify as either male or female. These statistics are extraordinarily alarming since approximately 5-7 percent of the total youth population in the nation identify as gay or transgender.
Other findings revealed that the current network of homeless youth service providers is not adequately effective in addressing the essential needs for gay and transgender homeless youth. While the full report contains a detailed breakdown of the survey results,the following are key findings which highlight the need for comprehensive youth homelessness policy reforms that pay particular attention to the gay and transgender population. Of homeless or at-risk gay or transgender youth, 46 percent ran away because of family rejection due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, and 43 percent were forced out by parents because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Large numbers of service providers working with youth at risk of homelessness report that their clients are predominantly under age 18. A clear majority of gay and transgender homeless youth are receiving services available to all clients, with 24 percent of programs designed specifically for gay and transgender youth. Nearly 60 percent of the responding agencies reported that transgender youth are in worse physical health than other youth, while almost a quarter reported they are “much worse.” Half reported that gay youth are in worse health than other youth. The top three barriers to improving services related to reducing gay and transgender homelessness relate to lack of funding.
Family rejection is devastating the lives of LGBT youth across our country, and very few organizations outside the Family Acceptance Project are tackling this issue. It’s all too easy to turn a blind eye to gay and transgender homeless youth pushing them off as an invisible population, but there is a very visible onslaught of anti-gay and anti-trans propaganda specifically targeting parents to raise their fears of our LGBT community. Rather than protecting children, the anti-gay efforts led by conservative evangelical Christians may very well be causing the exact forms of child abuse and neglect that they are always so quick to blame LGBT people for.
The new findings from this report provides a comprehensive picture of the trials and tribulations gay and transgender youth face and struggle with as they try to navigate and integrate into a world in which we seek acceptance, yet all to often it rejects them. Furthermore, it focus’s on essential requirements for our gay and transgender youth, and highlights many of our nation’s youth-serving homeless agencies that lack the capability to serve our young population. The report’s findings provide us with a policy roadmap that can help our government and service providers establish programs that meet the needs of all youth who are or are at risk or fear of becoming homeless.
In retrospect, the results of this survey act as further confirmation that America’s next generation of gay and transgender youth need us to stand with them so that they can stand on their own. We all need to unite together and support the hard working and dedicated service providers helping these young people every day, we need to strengthen our efforts to support them so they can help all of the youth in need. It is obvious that these vital services need more attention and funding from both the public and private sectors and the time is now to start taking a stand in support of our gay and transgender youth.
Victoria Michaels has been a radio show producer, Miss Pennsylvania USofA 1999, and Miss World 2000. Currently, she works as a reporter, is a board member of T-House Project, and the reigning Miss Florida F.I. 2012.