LGBTQ Youth: More Likely to Be Homeless, Youth of Color At Special Risk

1.7 million youth (ages 12-24) are homeless according to the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrown-Away Children. Of this number, 20-40% are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. A Williams Institute survey found LGBTQ youth comprise approximately 40% of clients served by homeless youth agencies, drop-in centers, outreach, and housing programs.

The Center for American Progress finds that LGBT youth disproportionately experience homelessness compared to non-LGBT youth. And they are primarily youth of color.

From the study:
“Service providers who work specifically with LGBT youth also report serving a  greater number of youth of color, suggesting that—at the very least—homeless youth of color are present in LGBT-specific programs at higher rates. For example, the Ruth Ellis Center in Detroit reports that approximately 99 percent of their youth clients are African American.

Additionally, from 2000 to 2005, Green Chimneys Triangle Tribe Apartments, a transitional living program, or TLP, for LGBT youth in New York City, reported a youth client population that was 44 percent Latino or Hispanic, 36 percent black or African American, and 10 percent white or Caucasian.”

Why are LGBT youth of color particularly vulnerable to homelessness?

It could very well be the dual impact of homophobia and racism. Advocates for Youth has cited a number of factors that create especially trying circumstances for LGBT youth of color. According to their whitepaper, “The Impact of Homophobia and Racism on GLBTQ Youth of Color,” this group is:

  • Significantly less likely to have told their parents they are GLBTQ: one study found that while about 80 percent of GLBTQ whites were out to parents, only 71 percent of Latinos, 61 percent of  African Americans, and 51 percent of Asians and Pacific Islanders (APIs) were out to parents.
  • More likely to have low self-esteem and experience suicidal thoughts than their counterparts of other ethnicities. African American same-sex attracted young men were also more likely to be depressed.
  • More likely to report that their church or religion viewed homosexuality as “wrong and sinful.”

Homelessness among LGBTQ youth is something society should address with education, interventions, awareness, and acceptance campaigns. However, cultural-specific intervention programs may be needed to offset the additional problem of racism for LGBTQ youth of color.