There are tons of resources out there for homeless youth and youth experiencing housing insecurity but there are very few resources that are designed to address the specific needs and experiences of LGBT youth and many of these resources are unprepared to address these issues or staff are untrained in issues faced by LGBT youth in general as well as youth who are experiencing homelessness. Considering that the rate of LGBT homelessness is so high (25-40% of all homeless youth) there is a lot that needs to be done in terms of creating resources and adapting existing resources to address the needs of LGBT youth.
In the process of my research one thing that has been popping up in a number of articles I’ve read is recommendations for improving services to make them more open and safe for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans* youth. First of all, the recommendation which seems the most crucial is that the staff who work at existing shelters and resource centers for homeless youth need to be educated in discrimination, homophobia, and transphobia experiences by their LGBT clients and how to address these issues within the shelter system. On top of this, service providers need to be trained in the specific issues faced by and the specific needs of LGBT. Second of all there needs to be an increase in number of resources designed specifically for LGBT youth who are experiencing homelessness in order to address the high rates of LGBT people and youth who are living on the streets or in unstable housing situations.
While people who identify as gay, lesbian and bisexual experience specific barriers and discrimination while attempting to access resources to address their homelessness, people who identify as trans* often experience much more drastic barriers which make staying in shelters difficult, if not impossible for many trans* individuals. In order to make a shelter system and a resource system that is accepting and safe for trans individuals we need to ensure that staff and social workers are educated in what it means to be a trans person and how to speak to and about trans indentified individuals. We need to ensure that staff are educated in gender identity and the correct ways to address transgendered individuals (such as use of chosen pronouns) and how to address their needs within the shelter system. Training staff on how to deal with trans clients will help avoid putting trans individuals in situations that can be very dangerous for them such as forcing trans individuals to stay in shelters with people of their birth sex as opposed to people of the gender that they associate with.
It seems that the major changes that need to be made to the shelter system to ensure safety and inclusion of LGBT individuals are such simple changes to be made. Something as simple as sensitivity and diversity training of staff can make a world of difference for LGBT youth who are experiencing homelessness. Although this training could make shelters and resource centers safer places for LGBT individuals it seems that what we truly need it more resources implemented that are designed specifically to address the needs of LGBT individuals with staff who are trained in and understand how to address these needs and who understand the experiences of LGBT youth especially youth who are experiencing homelessness.