Press

New report reveals epidemic of homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth

Date: 
December 14, 2006

Up to 8,400 LGBT youth in New York City may be homeless this winter

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
media@theTaskForce.org
646.358.1465

 

Disproportionate impact: 3 to 5% of U.S. population identifies as gay or lesbian, up to 42% of homeless youth identify as gay or lesbian

New York City provides unprecedented level of funding to
house and serve LGBT homeless youth

Download the full report.

“The heartbreaking epidemic of homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth is both fueled and ignored by powerful forces across the country, including many who cloak themselves in ‘family values.’ We salute New York City and its City Council for embracing these kids and responding with compassion and resources.”
— Matt Foreman, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

“This study illustrates that the challenges LGBT youth face can become so great that kids are left displaced and homeless. It is crucial that we provide the resources for connecting these young people with safe shelter, health care and educational services. The City Council is proud to have made the needs of LGBT homeless youth a priority, and we will continue our work to ensure these young people get the services they need.”
— New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn

WASHINGTON, Dec.14 — A new report, Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth: An epidemic of homelessness , released today by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in collaboration with the National Coalition for the Homeless, reveals an epidemic of homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth.

According to statistics cited by the federally funded National Runaway Switchboard, up to 42 percent of homeless youth identify as gay or lesbian, which is grossly disproportionate given that approximately 3 to 5 percent of the U.S. population identifies as gay or lesbian. (Additional research has found that homeless youth also disproportionately identify as bisexual or transgender.) Based on these estimates, up to 8,400 of the 15,000 to 20,000 homeless youth estimated to live in New York City are LGBT. Nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, each year between 570,000 and 1.6 million youth are homeless or run away. This means that up to 672,000 of these youth are LGBT.

The report answers some basic questions, including why so many LGBT youth are becoming and remaining homeless. In addition, it addresses the harassment and violence that many of these youth experience in existing public shelter systems and summarizes research on critical problems affecting these youth, including mental health issues, substance abuse and risky sexual behavior. The report also analyzes the federal government’s response to youth homelessness, including the specific impact on LGBT homeless youth of increased federal funding for faith-based service providers.

“The heartbreaking epidemic of homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth is both fueled and ignored by powerful forces across the country, including many who cloak themselves in ‘family values,’” said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “We salute New York City and its City Council for embracing these kids and responding with compassion and resources.”

“This study illustrates that the challenges LGBT youth face can become so great that kids are left displaced and homeless. It is crucial that we provide the resources for connecting these young people with safe shelter, health care and educational services. The City Council is proud to have made the needs of LGBT homeless youth a priority, and we will continue our work to ensure these young people get the services they need,” said New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

The report was released today at City Hall in acknowledgment of the New York City Council’s leadership in addressing this issue. Since 2005, more than $2 million has been granted to organizations in the city that provide a variety of vital services to homeless LGBT youth.

These organizations have developed model practice programs that can be replicated at shelters around the country. For example, the report includes a chapter written by Theresa Nolan, division director of the New York-based Green Chimneys, detailing the organization’s model transitional living program. New York City has also funded two additional providers that work exclusively with LGBT homeless youth: the Ali Forney Center, headed by Executive Director Carl Siciliano, and Sylvia’s Place, where Kate Barnhart is program director. This unprecedented level of funding specifically for helping to house and serve LGBT homeless youth came about through the determined leadership of Councilmembers Lew Fidler, Alan Gerson and Speaker Christine Quinn.

Key findings revealed in the report include:

  • Family conflict, including conflict over a youth’s sexual orientation or gender identity, is the primary cause for young people becoming homeless. In one study, 50 percent of gay male teens who came out to their parents experienced a negative reaction and 26 percent of them were told they must leave home.
  • LGBT youth report experiencing discrimination, harassment and violence at shelters and service providers. For example, one facility in Michigan forced youth who identified as or were perceived as being LGBT to wear orange jumpsuits.
  • LGBT homeless youth are more likely to suffer from mental health issues and substance abuse than are their heterosexual peers, and are more likely to be victimized by sexual predators.

The report concludes with a series of state-, federal-, and practitioner-level policy recommendations that can help to curb this epidemic, including:

  • Establishing funding streams to provide housing options for all homeless youth and requiring that recipients of these funds are committed to the safe and appropriate treatment of LGBT homeless youth.
  • Permitting dedicated shelter and housing for LGBT youth.
  • Extending comprehensive health insurance and services through the age of 24 to all low-income youth via Medicaid.
  • Requiring all agencies that seek public funding and licensure to serve homeless youth to adopt nondiscrimination policies for LGBT youth.
  • Mandating LGBT awareness training as a part of the professional licensing process for all health care, social service, child welfare and juvenile justice agency staff.
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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.