Pride Month: Homelessness & LGBTQ Youth

LGBTQ Youth Homelessness in America” highlights research related to the specific experiences of young people who identify as LGBTQ and face homelessness.

A pride flag with people lined up in the pride flag colors

Photo by James A. Molnar on Unsplash


A 2018 study conducted by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago cites disproportionate homeless rates among LGBTQ youth in the U.S. “Missed Opportunities: LGBTQ Youth Homelessness in America” highlights research related to the specific experiences of young people who identify as LGBTQ and face homelessness.

As one’s teenage and early adulthood years are among the most critical for self-development, the study notes stigmas and life experiences as causes for marginalization for LGBTQ youth facing homelessness.

One of the key findings in this study was that LGBTQ youth in the U.S. experience homelessness differently.

Take a look:

  • LGBTQ youth had over twice the rate of early death among youth experiencing homelessness.

  • LGBTQ youth are at more than double the risk of homelessness compared to non-LGBTQ peers.

  • Youth who identified as both LGBTQ and black or multiracial had some of the highest rates of homelessness.

  • Among youth experiencing homelessness, LGBTQ young people reported higher rates of trauma and adversity.

  • Transgender youth often face unique and more severe types of discrimination and trauma.

With this, the study also cites that homelessness of LGBTQ youth isn’t the immediate aftermath of coming out, but rather from a lasting impact of, “Family instability and frayed relationships.”

Though there is a lack of concrete information to confirm this disproportionate treatment of LGBTQ youth facing homelessness, this study is a step toward seeking solutions through recommendations for policymakers, public system leaders and practitioners across the nation.

Finding 1: LGBTQ youth are at high risk for homelessness compared to other groups

This is especially true for LGBTQ POC – especially young men. With this, LGBTQ young adults ages 18-25 experience over two times the rate of homelessness than their heterosexual, cisgender peers. “In larger, urban communities, the proportions of youth experiencing homelessness who identified as LGBTQ were higher than for smaller, more rural communities and reached up to 40% of homeless youth in one county’s youth count.”

Finding 2: LGBTQ youth experience high levels of adversity, including early death

Specifically with early death, LGBTQ youth have over twice the rate among youth experiencing homelessness. Additionally, LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness have described, “particularly pervasive exposure to trauma,” both before and during their periods of homelessness. With this, the study recommends prioritizing the implementation of services that explicitly help the LGBTQ youth population, such as within hospitals, community-based health centers, faith-based organizations, schools and local law enforcement organizations. Another suggestion may be to expand Medicaid guidance.

Finding 3: Homelessness among LGBTQ youth stems from multiple factors beyond coming out

After an LGBTQ youth comes out to their family, it can stem several factors that may lead to several other things that, in the long run, cause homelessness. From the study, this includes an escalation of parent-child conflict and a growing sense of rejection rather than immediate rejection. These can also be part of larger issues like financial instability, poverty, loss, violence, addiction and mental health problems.

“The fact that homelessness was often the product of escalated tension over time for many LGBTQ young people suggests that there is an opportunity to support young people and their families at earlier stages of difficulty,” the study reads.

Finding 4: Safe, affirming responses and services are important for engaging LGBTQ youth

Because LGBTQ youth have endured bouts of discrimination, bullying, exploitation and/or violence in their journeys, they are often hesitant to reach out for services that aren’t outwardly safe and affirming for them. “Young people want to be accepted and seen not simply for their sexual or gender identity, but as holistic and valuable human beings with multidimensional identities and stories of both struggle and resilience,” the study reads.

One of the top recommendations for this finding is to facilitate listening groups with LGBTQ youth to identify how to best foster more welcoming, nurturing, safe and trusted service options.

What does this all mean?

In 2018, nearly 4.2 million youth and young adults experienced some kind of homelessness in a 12-month period, but through the marginalization and struggles along the way, LGBTQ youth who have or are currently experiencing homelessness have oodles of resilience.

“Together, we can end youth homelessness in America. And we can get there faster by centering action and actionable research on LGBTQ youth and other high-risk subpopulations that experience homelessness at much higher levels. We owe it to young people like Isabel, and we owe it to our nation’s future.”

Read the full study here.


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