New study sheds light on problems facing LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness

For Immediate Distribution
June 10, 2015

Lauren Jow,, 310-206-0314

LOS ANGELES — LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ youth experience many similar issues leading to homelessness, but some of these issues are estimated by agency staff to be exacerbated for LGBTQ youth, according to a report released today by researchers at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law and the True Colors Fund.

The study, titled “Serving Our Youth 2015: The Needs and Experiences of LGBTQ Youth Experiencing Homelessness,” reviewed responses from providers of homeless youth services about their experiences working with LGBTQ youth.

Key findings from the report include:

• Sexual and gender minority youth are over-represented among those experiencing homelessness, according to estimates of the percent of LGBTQ youth accessing homeless services providers.

• LGBTQ youth accessing these services were reported to have been homeless longer than non-LGBTQ youth. Notably, providers were more likely to report that transgender youth experienced these disparities.

• LGBTQ youth accessing these services were reported to be in worse mental and physical health than non-LGBTQ youth. In particular, providers were more likely to report that transgender youth have worse mental and physical health than other youth.

• Providers indicated that the most prevalent reason for homelessness among LGBTQ youth was being forced out of home or running away from home because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

• Housing was the No. 1 need for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness, as identified by providers. Transition-related support was also identified as a critical need for transgender youth.

• Transgender youth were estimated to have experienced bullying, family rejection, and physical and sexual abuse at higher rates than LGBQ youth.

• Survey respondents cited staff qualities and characteristics, such as LGBTQ-inclusiveness and staff competencies, and program qualities, such as targeted programming for LGBTQ youth, as reasons for success in serving LGBTQ youth who are homeless, although many also point to lack of training in serving LGBTQ needs as a barrier.

This study highlights the need to further understand the differences in experiences between LGBTQ youth and non-LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness, as well as between cisgender LGBQ and transgender youth. The data suggest staff training, targeted programming, and an environment of inclusiveness have helped providers better serve LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness, yet, these strategies also appear to need further examination and evaluation.

“Knowledge is power and can lead to real change in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth experiencing homelessness,” said Cyndi Lauper, Co-Founder of the True Colors Fund. “These kids are significantly over represented in the homeless youth population and face greater challenges once they are on the streets because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Like the first version of Serving Our Youth, this new report makes it clear that we have a great deal of work still to do, but will play a key role in helping us to continue to move a smart and strategic plan forward to end youth homelessness in America.”

The report was co-authored by Soon Kyu Choi, policy analyst at the Williams Institute; Bianca D.M. Wilson, Rabbi Barbara Zacky Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute; Jama Shelton, Deputy Executive Director of the True Colors Fund; and Gary J. Gates, Williams Distinguished Scholar at the Williams Institute. The survey and report were funded by the Palette Fund.

Read the full report.