Missed Opportunities: LGBTQ Youth Homelessness in America

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Author(s): Voices of Youth Count – Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago

Published: April 2018

Report Intro/Brief:
“Missed Opportunities: LGBTQ Youth Homelessness in America highlights research related to the specific experiences of young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) and face homelessness. We learned that, compared to heterosexual and nontransgender youth, LGBTQ youth are disproportionately represented among the nearly 4.2 million youth and young adults in America who experienced some form of homelessness during a 12-month period. They also face a higher risk of early death and other adversities. On the positive side, this research points to actionable opportunities to better meet the needs of LGBTQ young people in our collective efforts to end youth homelessness.

Four Major Findings:

  1. LGBTQ youth are at high risk for homelessness compared to other groups
  2. LGBTQ youth experience high levels of adversity, including early death
  3. Homelessness stems from multiple factors beyond “coming out” among LGBTQ youth
  4. Safe, affirming responses and services are important for engaging LGBTQ youth


  • Support and provide incentives for community organizations and systems to institute more sensitive data collection about sexual orientation and gender identity, facilitate positive adult connections in LGBTQ youths’ lives, offer enhanced training on issues facing LGBTQ youth, and, most importantly, engage LGBTQ youth as full partners in strengthening systems and services.
  • Equitably locate LGBTQ-sensitive outreach, services, and housing options in or near predominantly black and multiracial communities.
  • Take advantage of programs offered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to ensure equal access and housing choice and aid community efforts to address the needs of minority youth and their families.
  • Especially where family engagement can lead to strengthening and support, develop and use therapeutic approaches for LGBTQ youth and their families. Ensure that interventions address trauma, stigma, and discrimination. Capitalize on federally funded runaway and homeless youth programs, such as Basic Center Programs that offer short-term shelter and family and youth counseling.
  • Add or revise guidance in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Block Grant on how these resources can better support LGBTQ and minority LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness.
  • Increase the competencies and training access for Medicaid health and behavioral health providers about the added challenges that LGBTQ youth face, including specific professional development for serving transgender youth.
  • Evaluate the most promising programs and interventions to determine their effectiveness for LGBTQ youth. The federal government can take the lead by providing evaluation funding for core interventions.
  • Facilitate peer-to-peer learning and technical assistance across HUD-funded Continuums of Care (CoCs) so that providers can foster more welcoming, nurturing, safe, and trusted options for LGBTQ youth.”

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