LGBT Homeless Youth


Across the United States, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth are grossly over-represented in the homeless youth population. These youth are at an increased risk of being victims of violence in homeless youth housing facilities. Homelessness takes a toll on both physical and mental health.

Video: Feels like home: Helping homeless LGBT youth
Need to Know correspondent Mona Iskander traveled to Minneapolis recently. There she met one young man who made it up from the streets thanks to a small innovative program now drawing attention across the country. (external link)

Eighteen-year-old Kelly R. was homeless. At the age of sixteen, her parents kicked her out of her home because she is transgender. Subsequently, she ran away from the group home in which she had been placed by the Administration for Children’s Services. When the weather got too cold for her to sleep outside and she could not earn enough money from prostitution to rent a hotel room, she stayed at a large emergency youth housing facility in lower Manhattan. The staff regularly forced her to bathe in an open showering facility with the shelter’s male occupants. One day in the shower, a group of these males attacked her. They beat her against the cement floor until her entire body was inflamed with contusions. They did not stop until her jaw was ripped from her face. This all occurred with staff present. This actually happened to a transgender girl in 2002. Sadly, similar acts of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth in emergency and transitional housing programs for homeless youth are very common.

A large segment of the homeless youth population is composed of LGBT youth. Those who occupy homeless youth housing facilities are at a great risk of being assaulted and otherwise harassed. In order to better protect LGBT youth in these housing programs from violence, social service agencies must adopt regulations aimed at curbing all violence in homeless youth housing programs as well as regulations addressing the particular problems faced by LGBT youth. These regulations should require, among other things, that all showering facilities in youth housing programs be private; that housing programs have low occupancy limits; that housing programs be prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender expression in providing any service; and that these programs provide LGBT nondiscrimination and sensitivity training to all staff. These training and nondiscrimination requirements should apply to all programs regardless of whether they are operated by religious organizations, which may believe that homosexuality and transgenderism are immoral. These agencies should also promulgate regulations to ensure that there are housing programs created specifically to serve the needs of homeless LGBT youth.

This [article] will discuss these proposed policies and the problems faced by homeless LGBT youth with reference to homeless youth housing programs in New York City, San Francisco, and Houston and the laws governing programs operated in those jurisdictions. This discussion is intended to provide an examination of the interplay among the laws, organization policies, and care of homeless LGBT youth in these jurisdictions, in order to formulate policy solutions to improve the homeless youth systems’ responsiveness to LGBT youth nationwide. Thus, this [article] advocates that these solutions be adopted in all jurisdictions. As used in this [article], the term “homeless youth housing program” includes the following: shelters housing youth between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one on an emergency basis for short periods of time, transitional living facilities providing housing for youth within the same age range for longer periods of time, and services to help youth transition to independent living.

The first part of this [article] presents an overview of the prevalence of LGBT youth in the homeless youth population, examines why they are overrepresented in this population, and describes the violence many of these youth face in homeless youth housing programs. The next part introduces the agencies that are empowered to regulate homeless youth housing programs in New York City, San Francisco, and Houston. The next part proposes regulations to reduce violence against all youth, both LGBT and non-LGBT, in homeless youth housing programs. The final part recommends regulations aimed at reducing violence against LGBT youth specifically and creating LGBT-affirming living environments.

(Download the full [article] here)

Source: Hunter, E. (2008). What’s good for the gays is good for the gander: Making homeless youth housing safer for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. Family Court Review46(3), 543-557. doi:10.1111/j.1744-1617.2008.00220.x

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~ by Brendan Kober on January 20, 2012.

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