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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 12, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 24
New study on problems of LGBTQ youth: 'Serving Our Youth 2015: The Needs and Experiences of LGBTQ Youth Experiencing Homelessness'
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New study on problems of LGBTQ youth: 'Serving Our Youth 2015: The Needs and Experiences of LGBTQ Youth Experiencing Homelessness'

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Homeless LGBTQ youth face many of the same problems that straight homeless youth face, only more so according to a new study released by the Williams Institute and 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.

Among the key findings of the study are:

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

o 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.

o 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.

o 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.

o 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.

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

o 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.

'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.'

Among the report's policy recommendations, the authors emphasized the need for more training for service providers to understand 'not only the differences in experiences between LGBTQ youth and non-LGBTQ youth, but also differences between cisgender LGBQ and transgender youth.'

There are many social service agencies 'that either do not see [LGBTQ youth] as a needed focus or reported the need for more help on how best to work with LGBTQ youth, including through training and organizational policies,' the report says, and this fact indicates the need to study the effectiveness of current training levels.

The report was co-authored by Soon Kyu Choi, policy analyst at the Williams Institute; Bianca D.M. Wilson, the 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 Williams Institute researches social and economic disparities that affect the LGBT community, and is attached to the UCLA Law School.

The True Colors Fund works to end LGBT youth homeless through research and advocacy.

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