Contributing Author: Christopher Gutmann
Published December 2, 2014
Triangle Community Center is announcing a new supportive housing program to address the issue of homelessness in the LGBTQ community. Everyone is entitled to the safety of a home. The problem of homelessness among LGBTQ youth is an issue that especially affects this community. During the stages of coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transsexual, when support is needed most, the youth of this community is thrown out of their homes and is forced to live on the streets. In today’s general youth population, LGBTQ persons make up about five to ten percent, yet 15 to 25 percent of the homeless youth population. Moreover, in areas where services are more obtainable, such as San Francisco or New York, approximately 40 percent identify as LGBTQ (California Homeless Youth Project, 2014). Living this kind of a lifestyle is incredibly difficult and can lead to several other problems for LGBTQ homeless youth: increase likeliness of sexual victimization, mental problems, unsafe sexual practices, substance abuse, and suicide.
Sexual victimization is one of the key issues that impact the LGBTQ homeless youth population. According to the Forty To None Project, nearly 60% have been sexually victimized, compared to the 33% of straight homeless young people (Forty to None, 2014). Even more unfortunate is that several incidents go unreported due to fear of how police will address the report or fear that their report will go unheard.
Another issue among this community is mental problems. Coming out to parents is a vulnerable time for LGBTQ youth, and there is an immediate need for support during this time.
A third issue that is a direct result of homelessness and sexual victimization is unsafe sexual practices. Usually this is a result of being sexually assaulted, but the lack of education, resources and support only increases this tendency a member of the LGBTQ youth population willingly wants to have sex. This results in transmitting HIV and STIs.
Substance abuse is also an important issue in this category. Substance usage is a coping mechanism in most cases, and frequently substances are abused as a result of not receiving support from family, friends or a community. LGBTQ youth are 10 percent more likely to some kind of substance with a parent before becoming homeless, and exacerbates the inclination that they will abuse substances when they leave or are kicked out of their homes. (California Homeless Youth Project, 2014).
A final, but certainly not the last issue among this group is higher rates of suicide. Between the struggles of family abandonment and incapability of obtaining support or resources, it is easy to see how urgent this side effect of homelessness is. Compared to heterosexual youth (29%), 62% of LGBTQ homeless youth commit suicide (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2012).
The issues that embroil this community do not stop here, and only intensify as they are ignored. TCC is working to reduce the issue of homelessness among the general LGBTQ community on a local level in Fairfield County. We are offering a new supportive housing program to meet a local need that aligns with the above trends. The program will be the first of its kind in the area and will be coordinated by Jacki Alessio, our new case manager.