STUDY: 40% Of Homeless Youth In Shelter System Are LGBT

An new survey of shelters catering to homeless youth reveals that nearly 40% of their clients were LGBT.

The numbers aren’t entirely shocking, but what is surprising is that 94% of agencies said that they worked with lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans clients in the last year, compared to 82% a decade ago.

The report, Serving Our Youth, was conducted by the Williams Institute, the Palette Fund and the True Colors Fund based on hundreds of surveys conducted from October 2011 through March 2012. Researchers found that 30% of clients identified as gay or lesbian, 9% identified as bisexual and 1% identified as  “other  gender.” At least another 1% were transgender men or women who identified as “male” or “female.”

Of course the results can be interpreted different ways: Are shelters doing a better job at identifying and reaching out to queer youth? Or are more LGBT kids finding themselves without a home?

Young people find themselves homeless for a variety of reasons: abuse, neglect, or simply aging out of the foster care system. But according to the study’s respondents, approximately 68% of their LGBT clients have experienced family rejection, and many of them have run away or been forced out of their homes by their own parents. Being aware that so many of their clients are gay or trans enables staffers, counselors and social workers to address issues of particular importance to the LGBT community—family reconciliation, HIV treatment, sex work, etc.

There’s been a lot of justifiable concern over gay teens taking their own lives, but homelessness is a serious issue as well (and one not wholly divorced from suicide). Perhaps certain “pro-family” organizations should follow their own advice and think of the children–the LGBT ones they are consigning to life on the streets (or worse) with their hateful rhetoric.



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  • Dionte

    That’s really sad.

  • Joe

    Sue the parent for emancipation and then for child support until they’re 21.
    Parents are responsible for their children regardless of their orientation.

  • Bee

    This is really sad and disheartening for me I sometimes think I have it a lil bad but when compared to getting disowned and kicked out the house…that was not even ever a suggestion so i’m sooo fortunate in that respsect I feel so bad for these kids my heart literallys aches for them.

  • Tel

    Well, queerty, I don’t think the existing “pro- family organizations care much about these stats. They would more likely disown their own children, as well, if they were gay. They(these orgs) are pretty much a lost cause . Nope, sorry.

  • Tel

    @ joe: great idea! I totally agree!

  • the other Greg

    The Ali Forney Center in Brooklyn is a good place to donate to.

    @Joe: Kids become adults at age 18, but yeah, never understood why the authorities don’t do that before then.

  • B

    No. 2 · Joe wrote, “Sue the parent for emancipation and then for child support until they’re 21. Parents are responsible for their children regardless of their orientation.”

    Make that 21 in Mississippi and Puerto Rico, 19 in Alabama, 19 or upon marriage in Nebraska, and 18 in the rest of the U.S.

    The “age of majority”, the point where one legally becomes an adult, varies from state to state. Unfortunately, if you think the age should be 21, you’d have to change the law in each state with a different age as each gets to set its own laws.

    Curiously, the rule in Nebraska seems to discriminate against gays and lesbians due to same-sex marriage not being permitted there and assuming a state interest in not encouraging sham marriages.

  • Ward

    I was homeless myself for two full years in Portland, OR. Some people will say “Just get a job!” They forget how hard that can be without simple necessities like an alarm clock to wake up to, a phone number for them to call you back at, somewhere to safely leave all your belongings, somewhere to bathe, a change of clothes… and even if you do somehow get the job, an apartment costs first month and last month’s rent as a security deposit usually. That’s a LOT of saving, while homeless, to try and do. So you wind up wasting it all on a cheap motel or somesuch where you can shower and that has an alarm clock instead, and costs almost your whole check. Which still leaves you walking to and from every day. There’s alot of challenges people just don’t stop to think about.

    When these kids get down on the streets, they’ve got ‘just’ that to deal with according to some. Only, they don’t. They’re mentally and emotionally dealing with the fact that they’ve just been tossed aside by the few people that should -always- be there for them, no matter what. Plus trying to find somewhere safe to sleep. Plus trying to find food. Plus being afraid of strangers in an unfamiliar setting with some very real dangers.

    I was lucky. I made my way out of being homeless through hard work and some lucky breaks. But not everybody gets those lucky breaks. People get so down and out they start turning to drugs to find an escape and feel happy again, even if only for a little while. And then… well, that’s its own issue.

    Abandoning your children just because you disagree with their choices isn’t just bad parenting, it’s inhuman. You’re shoving someone out to dig through dumpsters for their dinner, to have to break into abandoned buildings when it rains to find a dry place to sleep, and in the end? You’ve ruined their self esteem. Alot of them turn towards prostitution. Others get messed up with drugs. And some just wind up angering the wrong person and turn up dead.

    Parenting is a responsibility. From the moment they’re born, until the day they die. You don’t always have to agree with the decisions they make in life, but you should be supportive. They’re your kid dammit. Love them, unconditionally. That’s what family is about.

  • Toby

    As a poster above mentioned, Ali Forney Center in New York is a good place to give help to. I’d also like to mention New Alternatives For Homeless LGBT Youth (www.newalternativesnyc.org) an excellent non-religious volunteer organization now working out of space provided by a church on Christopher St. in New york that provides food, clothes, necessities, counseling, GED classes and college placement help and a lot more. Donations help a whole lot. New Alternatives helps 3 to 4 hundred kids a year. Also, New Jersey Youth & Family Services actively seeks LGBT foster parents. A good friend of mine got involved in that and has fostered 17 gay kids – even legally adopting one of them who is now almost finished with college! He told me it is the most rewarding thing he has ever done. I know that to be true because I’ve done it myself, along with my husband. Our adopted gay son is the light and joy of our lives.Sadly – very sadly – it isn’t possible to save all the kids at risk but if we all help, we can save some. These are OUR kids and A community that doesn’t care for its youth doesn’t deserve equality.

  • andy_d

    How about including links to sites for organizations that support homeless GLBT youth? I am sure, in this time of tight resources, they can use donations, both financial and of materials, not to mention volunteers.

  • Ward


    Porchlight/Streetlight Youth Shelters: Provides Shelter services for anyone ages 15-25 a drug free environment that also serves a large dinner each night and normally plays a movie. Separate dorms for male and female, with accommodations for transgender for which they’d feel safer in or even somewhere separate if possible. It also supplies them with the only laundry facilities in town that I’m aware of.


    P:EAR: P:EAR is something different. It’s an art gallery where homeless teens can make art of any kind (models, painting, music, etc) and then sell it. You set the price. If someone buys it, you keep 90% of the profit, 10% goes back into supplies. They also have mentors, breakfast and light lunches, and a safe place to hang out. I’ve sold artwork myself there to business men for upwards of 100 dollars. It’s a great way of rebuilding self pride and talent.


    Outside In: A massive day center on the western edge of downtown, it houses everything from job readiness training, help with getting your first apartment and free furniture to put in it, a free clinic on the first floor open to anyone, with a sliding scale of fees for those able to pay, free for those who aren’t. There’s a day center for teens on the second floor that does sex education classes, as well as case management, lockers to store belongings, showers, mentors, and a large lunch.


  • Dave

    I sometimes volunteer at Hollywood Arts. A great outreach project for the kids that end up in Hollywood. There’s a lot. Many LGBT.
    Check them out online. Maybe toss $5 bucks at them.

    Dave L.

  • Ward

    I know alot of people are leery about giving money to people who are “panhandling” or, asking for spare change. The usual reasoning is that ‘they’re just going to spend it all on beer anyways. And, you’re right. Sometimes that’s very true. Honestly I can’t blame them. Who doesn’t want to have something good to drink and eat, and just go hang out with friends at the end of a week? Their days are just as hectic, even more so, than many of ours, so I can’t very well blame them for wanting to blow off some steam, you know?

    But, by the same token, it’s not necessarily money well spent. And, for every one person needing the cash for beer, there’s five or six others out there who need food and some sort of fruit juice to get the vitamin C in their diet.

    The solution? Pass them by, and come back with a sandwich, or a juicebox, or a happy meal. They cost two bucks, you’re only taking five minutes out of your day, and you’ve just made someone else’s day. If he was telling the truth, he’ll be all but jumping for joy. If he wasn’t, he’ll still have his meal for the day anyhow and not have to go searching, so will be grateful anyways.

    When we do something good for others, it makes us feel good too. Try it out. ^_^

  • Triple S

    @Ward: I can understand what you’re saying, but what difference will it make?

    At most, it will simply extend the problem later than it should end.
    Simply giving them food and stuff is a great thing, and they’ll appreciate it, but how on Earth does that inspire them to do anything else? Being GIVEN goods is FAR easier than working for it.

    They don’t HAVE to stay on the street. That’s why shelters exist.

    The “I don’t have anyone to go to” argument runs thin these days, as there is ALWAYS something. Maybe not the most ideal, but there is something.
    That being said, I still feel sympathetic towards homeless young people. Homeless middle-aged people usually means they fucked their life up or haven’t attempted to find help earlier on.

    A bitter pill I am offering, I know, but really; what else can their be? The world is a damn unforgiving place, and the most dreary story is usually the right one.
    Places like the ones you suggested are a FANTASTIC remedy to the plight of so many people, and all it takes is them finding out where it is.

  • ousslander

    Now queerty is worried about them becoming sex workers? When gay “culture” and media promoted porn/sex workers as glamorous stars and viable career path for young people.

  • Blowupxeslana

    OMG what is that kid wearing ? He looks really bad? Even H&m has dollar tshirts.

  • Adam

    for any midwesterners looking to donate or get involved, there are a lot of great resources for LGBTQ homeless youth in Chicago:

    UCAN Chicago offers a host home program for homeless LGBTQ youth http://www.ucanchicago.org/host-home/

    VIDA/SIDA has recently opened a shelter for LGBTQ homeless youth in Chicago http://www.generationl.org/?page_id=466

    The Night Ministry offers shelter and health services to homeless youth, including many who are LGBTQ http://www.thenightministry.org/

    Teen Living Programs offers emergency shelter to youth, including LGBTQ youth http://www.teenliving.org

    La Casa Norte provides shelter and an independent living program to homeless youth, including LGBTQ youth http://chitaskforce.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/chicago-lgbt-youth-resources.pdf

  • the other Greg

    @Blowupxeslana: Ri-i-i-ght, THAT should be our focus, the bad fashion choices that gay homeless kids must make.

    Come to think of it, that might get through to some of those vapid queens here with more money than brains.

  • the other Greg

    @ousslander: Queerty is not as bad as it used to be about that, but still, I figure there’s quite a bit of difference between being a porn “star” and some poor kid needing to give bj’s for money in the front seat of a car.

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