LGBTQ Young Adults Experience Homelessness at More than Twice the Rate of Peers

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) young adults were found to be twice as likely to experience homelessness as their peers. Further, data from in-depth interviews revealed that LGBTQ youth were at greater risk for adversity before and during homelessness. This is the second in a series of briefs from the Voices of Youth Count initiative.

What We Did

This brief draws on multiple research components to provide a more holistic perspective on the topic of LGBTQ youth homelessness in America. These include a nationally representative phone based survey, brief surveys of youth and service providers in 22 counties, in-depth interviews with youth in five diverse counties, administrative data analysis, a systematic review of evidence on interventions to prevent and address youth homelessness, and policy analysis. The integration of different methods and perspectives allows for broader and deeper insights on youth homelessness and opportunities for action.

What We Found

  • LGBTQ youth are at more than double the risk of homelessness compared to non-LGBTQ peers
  • Among youth experiencing homelessness, LGBTQ young people reported higher rates of trauma and adversity, including twice the rate of early death
  • Homelessness stems from multiple factors beyond “coming out” among LGBTQ youth
  • Youth who identified as both LGBTQ and black or multiracial had some of the highest rates of homelessness
  • Safe, affirming responses and services are important for engaging LGBTQ youth

What It Means

Many LGBTQ youths’ trajectories into homelessness revealed numerous opportunities for prevention and early intervention. This insight should encourage policymakers and advocates who serve youth to jumpstart work on early identification of youth at risk for homelessness. Early identification can create better opportunities for initiating appropriate supports before family situations escalate into a crisis. Leaders in homelessness systems and services also need to act on the importance of earning reputations as safe and affirming spaces—for all young people but especially for LGBTQ youth, who have shown they will avoid service agencies they don’t trust. LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness need fast access to safe and stable housing help them avoid the risks of homelessness and get on a path to thriving.

More purposeful evaluation of the most promising interventions around youth homelessness, and their effectiveness specifically for LGBTQ young people, is critical for government agencies and foundations that make investments in this area.

Recommended Citation
Morton, M. H., Samuels, G. M., Dworsky, A., & Patel, S. (2018). Missed opportunities: LGBTQ youth homelessness in America. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
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