LGBTQ Homelessness Issues

This video was put together by I. Alex Abramovich as part of his masters thesis on LGBT homelessness in Toronto. The video includes important findings from Alex’s research and gives some background about what it is like to be a young queer person experiencing homelessness in Toronto. Not only does it include some important statistics about youth homelessness is also explores the discrimination that LGBT youth can experience in the shelter system and on the streets even in Toronto which is advertised as a global hub for LGBT people.

When we were asked to choose a research topic on an issue relating to gender and welfare in Canada, I was immediately drawn to the issue of LGBT homelessness, especially after leading a seminar on homelessness that included literature on LGBT youth homelessness. The more I read about the issue the more I wanted to understand what it means for LGBT youth to be homeless and how their status as LGBT individuals affects their experiences with homelessness and housing insecurity. One of the major things that has struck me over the course of my research is the fact that many of the people being discussed in the literature are LGBT youth who are around the same age as me and my friends and as a queer identified individual it really strikes me how lucky I am. In the states it is estimated that 320,000-400,000 LGBT youth are homeless, I am one of the lucky ones. As someone who comes from a very liberally minded family who accepted me from the very moment I came out, I can never even begin to imagine what it means trying to address homophobia within the shelter system as well as within your own family and community. The fact that I have had an extremely difficult time finding local resources available for LGBT youth experiencing homelessness only increases my drive to learn more about the topic and what we can do to make life better for queer homeless youth. I am eager to learn about the experiences of other queer youth and what we can do to improve the situation for homeless youth who are gay and trans.

311928_10152001358570234_924497040_safespaceThere 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.

A must see documentary on LGBT homelessness

In the course of my research I stumbled on this documentary which takes an in-depth look at the lives and experiences of LGBT people who are experiencing homelessness. This film explores the reasons for LGBT homelessness and the roles that society plays in putting LGBT youth at risk of experiencing housing insecurity.

Hi readers and welcome to my blog. I started this blog as part of a research assignment for a course on gender, welfare and social justice. If you want to know more about me and the site please click the about me page in the top right hand corner and if you’re new to LGBTQ issues, please feel free to visit the list of terminology that may be found in some of my posts also found in the top right corner. Enjoy!

Nicki

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I just want to give a big shout-out to everyone who’s been passing this blog around. When I posted a link to it on facebook I was not expecting to have FOURTY TWO people come and check out my blog today! Thanks so much to all my family members who shared it with their friends and who have shown interest in what I’m doing for this research project. So thanks again to everyone.

Dan Savage; queer writer, columnist, activist, and co-founder of the It Gets Better Project takes a look at LGBT homelessness issues. See part 2 here.

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