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Homelessness:

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Left Out in the Cold

Each year, between 500,000 and 1.6 million youth in the U.S. are homeless or runaways.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth make up an estimated 3% to 5% of the general U.S. population. Yet they make up more than 20%—and possibly up to 40%—of the homeless youth population.

Shouldn’t we give a damn?

Increased vulnerability

Family conflict is the most common cause of all youth homelessness. For gay and transgender youth, the conflict tends to be over their sexual orientation or gender identity, and the results aren’t pretty: Half of all teens get a negative reaction from their parents when they come out to them. More than 1 in 4 are thrown out of their homes.

Imagine confiding in the people you trust most in the world only to be rejected and tossed out on the street with no place to go.

Studies have shown that gay and transgender kids and teens are already more vulnerable than the average youth. Compared to their straight peers, they are far more likely to be bullied in school; 4 times more likely to attempt suicide; and also more likely to experience depression, use drugs, and experience or witness extreme forms of violence.

But when they are homeless, they’re even more vulnerable. They are at a greater risk for victimization, unsafe sexual practices and mental health issues than straight homeless teens. Nearly 60% have been sexually victimized on the street, compared to 33% of straight homeless youth. Gay and transgender homeless youth, in fact, are more than 7 times more likely to experience acts of sexual violence than straight homeless youth.

They’re also more likely to commit suicide—62%, vs. 29% of straight homeless youth.

Imagine ending up on the streets with no food, shelter or support, and being taken advantage of right when you are in need of help and kindness.

Imagine feeling so lost, alone and unsafe that you’d rather take your own life than endure the pain any longer.

Unsafe in shelters, too

While all homeless youth can try to find help and assistance at shelters, it’s not easy. One study found that in a single year, more than 2,500 homeless teens could not be placed in a transitional living program because of lack of funding. Another 4,200 youth were turned away from emergency shelters and other basic programs for the homeless.

And those gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender homeless youth who are able to get into a homeless shelter or transitional living program often become victims of discrimination and prejudice once there. These youth have been needlessly singled out by staff, been assaulted by other program participants and more. In one residential placement facility, for example, they were forced to wear orange jumpsuits to warn staff and other residents.

Imagine the relief of finally getting off the streets—only to be persecuted by the very people who are supposed to be helping you.

It’s time for things to change.

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Visit our nonprofit partner’s website; they can point you to local resources that help homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. They can provide you a ton of additional ways to get involved:

The information for this report was provided by:

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