LGBTQ+ Homeless Youth

 By Sophia Mastropaolo, Marketing and Communications Intern, National Safe Place Network

 June is a month of celebration for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (LGBTQ+), and others community. Celebrating the identity and achievements of the community allows for individuals to feel pride in who they are, during a time they still need to often fight for basic needs and equality. Though this is often a joyous time for the community, it is important to acknowledge troubles that continue to plague many members. One such plague is the rate of homeless youth in the LGBTQ+ community.

 A study done at the University of Chicago shows that 40 percent of the total unaccompanied homeless youth population is made up of LGBTQ+ youth, regardless of the fact that the LGBTQ+ youth population only makes up between five and ten percent of the total youth population in America. In addition, many of these youth were forced out of their homes without a choice. UCLA Law found that 43 percent of homeless youth were kicked onto the streets due to their family’s rejection of who they are. Though they may be escaping abuse at home, their fight for survival doesn’t end once they are left to fend for themselves on dangerous streets.

 The option for an LGBTQ+ youth to go to a shelter is not a perfect one. Though it provides shelter and food for the individual, many homeless youth shelters provide relief with hidden intentions. For example, they may try to place anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs onto vulnerable minors and further increase any invalidity they may feel. It is important for a shelter to truly have the best intentions for all youth, LGBTQ+ or not, that might come under their roof. When a youth does not have a safe shelter they can turn to, they are at 120% greater risk of being robbed, beaten, or unjustly taken into the judicial system than their peers. Physical, mental, and emotional dangers await these vulnerable youth when they have nowhere else to turn.

 It can be difficult for youth to know what shelters and houses are truly safe for them as an LGBTQ+ individual. As previously mentioned, hidden intentions can cause the youth more insecurity or anxiety about who they are. However, places such as Covenant House are great for those in need. Covenant House is the “largest provider of services to youth facing homelessness in the Americas”. They are dedicated to providing a “welcoming, affirming, and safe” space for all youth, especially LGBTQ+. They are an organization dedicated to providing both short-term and long-term resources and support to help keep youth off of the dangerous streets.

Under the current administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has recently announced plans to propose a rule change which would allow for HUD-funded homeless shelters to deny transgender applicants on religious grounds or demand they use bathrooms and bedding areas conflicting with their personal gender identity. Though this proposal has yet to be approved, this loss of protection for transgender individuals would put them at risk for further discrimination inside HUD-funded homeless shelters, places meant for safety. In addition, it could force higher numbers of trans youth onto the streets and back into danger and violence.

 Though this rule change proposal feels like a regression in equal rights, let’s take a moment to acknowledge all the hard-work put towards helping homeless LGBTQ+ youth. For example, sock brand Bombas has donated a pair of socks to homeless shelters for every pair of socks bought from them since 2013. Recently, Bombas has released rainbow socks for the duration of Pride Month in celebration of the community. However, their support doesn’t end with fun colored socks. They have pledged to donate 40 percent of all socks donated to LGBTQ+ youth homeless shelters specifically. Though socks may be something we view as trivial, unused clothes are often the donation most highly requested by shelters.

 Another great foundation working to raise awareness for and to fight against LGBTQ+ youth homelessness is Happy Hippies, an organization founded by Miley Cyrus. Happy Hippies provides resources and programs to vulnerable LGBTQ+ youth, allowing for them to find help in crises, support services, public education, and resources needed to meet basic needs. As a privately funded foundation, 100 percent of donations to Happy Hippies are able to directly benefit those in need.

During this month of celebration, we must keep in mind those who have fought for themselves and their identities in more ways than one. As an ally, it is important to never diminish the struggles of those who may not have anyone to tell them that who they are is perfectly okay. It is important to listen, with open ears and an open heart, to their story and to what they need. Not everyone is in the position to take an LGBTQ+ youth in as a foster child, nor is it expected of everyone, but directing them to different resources or even simply showing them love in a cold world could be enough to change their life. 

Visit for resources for families, youth, and providers. 

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