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.