Primary Sources: Learning How Service Providers and Policy Makers Can Help LGBTQ Homeless Youth

Alex Keuroghlian, Derri Shtasel, Ellen Bassuk
July 10, 2014

Studies show that homeless LGBTQ youth are at an increased risk for mental health and substance abuse problems, as well as for getting HIV and becoming victims of violence. Research also indicates that different groups within the LGBTQ population (lesbians, gay men, bisexual men, and so on) have different needs depending on factors such as age, sex, gender identification, location and behavior. For example, lesbian runaways are more likely to have been abused by caretakers, while gay or bisexual young men are more likely to have engaged in high-risk substance use and sexual behaviors. Transgender youth are at particular risk for violence and sexual assault, and misplacement in shelters by sex rather than gender identity, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Reports imply that interventions to help LGBTQ youth need to address specific subgroups rather than treating "LGBTQ" (and other iterations of the term) as homogenous labels. Unfortunately, many service providers don’t have the knowledge to do this adequately.

Researchers have estimated that a disproportionate number of LGBTQ youth are homeless. Taking stock of research on this group of young people will help advocates and service providers to determine the best ways to reduce the likelihood that LGBTQ youth will become homeless.