LGBT Youth comprise a disproportionate number of the homeless population and are 8 times more likely to experience homelessness.
Young people separate from their families for many different reasons. Sometimes their caretakers have abused or neglected them. Perhaps they are mentally compromised and/or their sexual orientation has caused conflict and they are asked to leave. Maybe some have an unwanted pregnancy. Others may be undocumented youth who have no family members to care for them. In any case, with help from professionals in community agencies, they benefit enormously from finding in a new home and continuing their education. Remaining homeless is hazardous for these young people as they are exposed to hunger and violence.
They suffer the same punishing stigma as adults, in that we blame them for being homeless. We are advised not to give them spare change because they may use it on drugs and alcohol. In reality, they have no money and, without help, they have no place to live. They cannot afford basic necessities such as coffee, water or soda, soap, handkerchiefs, etc. We should be ashamed to ignore them and try to keep a positive attitude toward them. We should feel generous enough to give them spare change.
With support of professional help in community agencies, all homeless unaccompanied youth who are not detained may be able to find a host homes, group home and even a subsidized apartment. They are entitled to public education, and public schools must accept them without confirming their identity in accordance with the national McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. But they are much better able to take advantage of schooling if they can find a stable, supportive home.
To end homelessness, communities should
- Improve the response to crisis situations,
- Prioritize services to encourage family reunification or support as the initial intervention,
- Increase the number of and support for transitional living programs,
- Improve data collection, and,
- Encourage collaboration between established child welfare systems.
For more information visit the National Alliance to End Homelessness.