During LGBTQ+ Pride Month it’s important not just to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, but also to fight for equality.
In the U.S., LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience homelessness than the general population. Studies suggest that LGBTQ+ people make up 20-40% of the population experiencing homelessness in the U.S., though they only make up 5-10% of the total U.S. population.
This is a problem nationwide. In Minnesota, people in the LGBTQ+ community are similarly overrepresented in Minnesota homeless shelters. LGBTQ+ people are estimated to make up roughly 11% of the population of people experiencing homelessness in the state. However, only 4% of Minnesotans identify as LGBTQ+.
LGBTQ+ Youth are Specifically at Risk
Nationwide, it’s estimated that up to 40% of youth experiencing homelessness are LGBTQ+, though only 10% of youth nationwide identify as LGBTQ+. This means that they are overrepresented in the homeless youth population. LGBTQ+ youth ages 18-25 have a two-times greater risk of homelessness than their straight or cisgender peers.
In Minnesota specifically, around 23% of youth experiencing homelessness are LGBTQ+. For adults between the ages of 25 and 54, that percentage drops to 9%. This suggests that homelessness is particularly prevalent in young members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Needless to say, the experience of being homeless is devastating for youth in a variety of ways. It can harm both their physical and mental health, and it puts them at a higher risk for trauma, substance use, and discrimination. It can also shorten their life expectancy and add barriers to their career development.
Why Are LGBTQ+ People More Likely to Experience Homelessness?
The most prevalent reason LGBTQ+ youth experience homelessness is because they are forced out of their homes or run away due to family rejection. 67% of transgender youth experiencing homelessness and 55% of LGBQ youth experiencing homelessness cited this as the primary cause for their situation.
Other less common primary reasons for experiencing homelessness were experiencing abuse, aging out of foster care, family poverty, and neglect.
Though family rejection and forced homelessness is the number one reason for LGBTQ+ youth homelessness, it’s often a combination of factors that leads to youth ending up on the streets. The vast majority LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness have experienced bullying, harassment, rejection, and mental health issues.
There are many issues that are important to ending LGBTQ+ homelessness, and specifically LGBTQ+ youth homelessness, including:
LGBTQ+-specific shelters. Being able to stay somewhere where your identity is affirmed, and you won’t be put at risk because of it, is important. Many areas are lacking enough LGBTQ+ homeless shelters to meet the current demand. The COVID-19 pandemic has also put particular stress on LGBTQ+ homeless youth due to fears of LGBTQ+-specific shelters being shut down or reduced capacity due to COVID.
Housing services. Helping LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness find a place to live is crucial. Early intervention–getting them housing and other necessary resources quickly–is important.
Want to learn more about or support organizations that work towards improving the lives of youth and adults in the LGBTQ+ community? Find lists of organizations here and here.
How Can I Get Help?
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a list of resources for LGBTQ+ individuals who are experiencing homelessness. Find it here.
Housing Services for All
At Guild, we stand with the LGBTQ+ community. We believe all people are deserving of a safe and accepting place to live. If you are in need of housing services, we recommend contacting your county’s Coordinated Entry.
LGBTIQ+ Homelessness: A Review of the Literature, National Institutes of Health.
People Who Identify as LGBTQ, Wilder Research.
LGBT Homelessness, National Coalition for the Homeless.
New Report on Youth Homelessness Affirms that LGBTQ Youth Disproportionately Experience Homelessness, Human Rights Campaign.
Coronavirus Pandemic a Perfect Storm for LGBTQ Homeless Youth, NBC News.
Serving Our Youth, The Williams Institute.
Homelessness & Housing, Youth.gov.
LGBTQ Homeless Youth Fact Sheet, National Alliance to End Homelessness.