National Recommended Best Practices for Serving LGBT Homeless Youth LGBT Youth and Homelessness

This publication addresses the ways in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth are overrepresented in the homeless population. According to a growing body of research and study, a conservative estimate is that one out of every five homeless youth (20 percent) is LGBT-identified. This is greatly disproportionate to the estimated percentage of LGBT youth in the general population which is somewhere between 4 and 10 percent. Research indicates that each year, hundreds of thousands of LGBT youth will experience homelessness. Most LGBT youth become homeless because of family abuse, neglect, or conflict over their identity. Many homeless LGBT youth were kicked out of their homes while others ran from foster and group homes because they were mistreated or harassed.

LGBT youth are not only overrepresented in homeless youth populations, but reports indicate that while living on the streets, LGBT youth are at great risk of physical and sexual exploitation— at the hands of adults, police, and other youth. For example, one study concluded that LGBT homeless youth experience an average of 7.4 more acts of sexual violence toward them than their heterosexual peers. Transgender youth in particular are often harassed, assaulted, and arrested by police because of their gender presentation. Another study found that LGBT youth may have twice the rates of sexual victimization on the streets as non-LGBT homeless youth, and LGBT youth report double the rates of sexual abuse before age 12. In addition, LGBT homeless youth are more likely to report being asked by someone on the streets to exchange sex for money, food, drugs, shelter, and clothing than heterosexual homeless youth. Unfortunately, many LGBT homeless youth resort to trading sex to meet their basic needs.

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