For many LGBTQ youth in America and across the world, coming out can be a life-or-death decision. Many teens are denied roofs over their heads for living their identities out loud, or for acknowledging their sexuality at all. The struggles and obstacles for these teens can be staggering: They’re assaulted (sexually or otherwise), they’re forced to exchange sex for basic needs like food or clothing, and sometimes they die.
A new study finds that LGBTQ youth are more than twice as likely than their non-LGBTQ peers to experience homelessness. The most cited reason for this disproportionate rate in homeless LGBTQ youth is familial rejection due to the young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. These findings emerged from research by Chapin Hall, a group at the University of Chicago using research to suggest policies for helping communities, families and young people.
“Our study reveals the vulnerability of LGBTQ youth in our country today,” says Bryan Samuels, executive director of Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. “They are at higher risk both before and during their experiences of homelessness.”
Samuels adds, “Given the evidence that our young people are in harm’s way, we have an obligation to act to protect them. Fortunately, our findings point to solutions, too.”
Not only do LGBTQ youth face a greater risk of experiencing homelessness, but also assault, sex work and early death.
Chapin Hall’s report, Missed Opportunities: LGBTQ Youth Homelessness in America, is among the first national assessments of the increased risks LGBTQ youth face. The report found (their emphasis):
LGBTQ youth are among the most at-risk sub populations for homelessness. Young adults (18-25) who identify as LGBTQ experienced homelessness at more than twice the rate of their non-LGBTQ peers. Black LGBTQ youth, especially young men, had the highest rates of homelessness.
Among youth experiencing homelessness, LGBTQ youth had twice the rate of early death as other youth. LGBTQ youth also experienced higher levels of adversity, including higher rates of assault and of exchanging sex for basic needs.
But researchers at Chapin Hill also found that “coming out” is not the only reason for homeless LGBTQ youth. Their families often face broader issues of instability, including poverty, violence, addiction and mental health problems. These issues raise the likelihood of them experiencing hardships or trauma.
The research conducted by Chapin Hill also found that young people’s decision to seek services are based on the reputation of the agency providing the services. So even though they’re desperate for resources, they want to be able to rely on safe and affirming help.
Creating these systems, and supporting those that already exist, is vital in providing life-saving resources for some of the youngest members of our LGBTQ community.
Here are 5 organizations attempting to end LGBTQ youth homelessness.
1. Happy Hippie Foundation
Founded by Miley Cyrus in 2014, the Happy Hippie Foundation rallies young people to stand up against the injustices that face LGBTQ youth today, including homelessness. You can donate to the Happy Hippie Foundation here.
2. Ali Forney Center
The Ali Forney Center (AFC) in New York City is the largest LGBT community center helping homeless LGBTQ youth in the United States. AFC both manages and develops transitional housing for its clients, helping approximately 1,000 youths every year between the ages of 16 and 24 years old. You can donate to the Ali Forney Center here.
3. True Colors Fund
The True Colors Fund was co-founded by singer Cyndi Lauper and is dedicated to preventing LGBTQ youth homelessness. The charity works in public policy and engagement to improve the lives of homeless LGBTQ youth, helping them embrace their true identities. You can donate to The True Colors Fund here.
4. Courage Home
Brad Schlaikowski and his husband Nick launched Courage MKE, a nonprofit with a mission to uplift LGBTQ youth. Since it started, the grassroots organization has raised more than $110,000 in small donations for projects and initiatives that support LGBTQ youth.
The men recently used $50,000 of that money to purchase a property in Milwaukee that’ll be home to Courage House, Wisconsin’s first group home and drop-in center specifically for LGBTQ youth. They hope to open the eight-bed facility by November of this year, before the severe Wisconsin winter begins. You can donate to Courage MKE here.
5. Los Angeles LGBT Center
At any given moment there are roughly 3,500 homeless LGBTQ youth struggling on the streets of Los Angeles. Since 1969, the Los Angeles LGBT Center has offered resources for them. Today the Center’s more than 600 employees provide services for more LGBTQ people than any other organization in the world. You can donate to the Los Angeles LGBT Center here.