Sexual minority adults twice as likely as the general population to have experienced homelessness

A new study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds an estimated 17% of sexual minority adults in the U.S. report having experienced homelessness at some point in their lives, compared to 6% of the general population. The majority (71%) experienced homelessness for the first time as an adult, compared to 20% who experienced it before age 18.

In addition, a significantly higher proportion of transgender people reported homelessness in the past year compared to both sexual minority and cisgender straight people. And among LGB people, African Americans had particularly high rates of recent experiences of homelessness.

This study is the first to provide estimates of the percentage of sexual and gender minority adults experiencing homelessness compared to cisgender straight adults using nationally representative data collected from the Generations Study and the U.S. Transgender Population Health Survey (TransPop). Questions about lifetime experiences with homelessness were not included in TransPop, so only recent experiences are included for transgender people.

“It is important to note that the data on housing instability and homelessness were collected prior to the pandemic,” said lead author Bianca D.M. Wilson, Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “The multi-tiered economic and health effects of COVID-19 will likely make the problem worse for LGBT people and could increase their vulnerability to the virus.”

Key Findings

Lifetime experiences of homelessness

  • 17% of sexual minority adults reported they experienced homelessness at some point in their lifetimes.
  • Of those respondents who experienced homelessness, 71% experienced homelessness as adults, 20% did so before they turned 18, and 9% experienced it as adults and as youth.

Recent experiences of homelessness

  • 8% of transgender adults experienced homelessness in the past year, compared to 3% of cisgender and genderqueer sexual minority adults, and 1% of cisgender straight adults.
  • African American (6%) sexual minority adults had significantly higher rates of recent housing instability, compared to Latinx (3%) and White (2%) sexual minority adults.

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May 8, 2020

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