How homelessness impacts the LGBTQ+ community
June 9, 2022
Across the country, there are unhoused people in every community. The leading cause of homelessness is economic hardship, such as job loss. Homelessness rates rise faster in cities where residents spend more than one-third of their income on rent. Even with economic conditions as a common factor, homelessness doesn’t affect all communities equally.
Some groups of people experience higher rates of housing instability. In particular, people who are LGBTQ+ are overrepresented among the unhoused population. Social stigma, discrimination, and family rejection put them at greater risk. According to the Williams Institute, 17% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults and 30% of transgender adults have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives, compared to 6% of the U.S. population. The Williams Institute is a research center on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy. Their 2020 research also shows:
- Nearly 30% of transgender respondents to the U.S. Transgender Survey who experienced homelessness reported being denied shelter due to their transgender status or gender expression. Approximately 44% reported mistreatment at a shelter, including harassment, assault, or requirements to dress or present as the wrong gender.
- 22% of LGBT adults live in poverty in the U.S. compared to 16% of non-LGBT people.
- 8% of transgender adults report experiencing homelessness in the past year, compared to 3% of non-transgender lesbian, gay, and bisexual people and 1% of cisgender, heterosexual adults.
LGBTQ youth and homelessness
In addition to LGBTQ+ adults, youth are also disproportionately affected. According to a 2022 report from the Trevor Project, 28% of LGBTQ youth reported experiencing homelessness or housing instability at some point in their lives — and those who did had two to four times the odds of reporting mental health challenges compared to those with stable housing. Additionally, research from the Williams Institute shows LGBTQ youth make up 22% of homeless youth.
A survey of 350 service providers across the country revealed the top four contributing factors for LGBTQ youth homelessness:
- Family rejection resulting from sexual orientation or gender identity
- Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
- Aging out of the foster care system
- Financial and emotional neglect
In addition to homelessness, LGBTQ+ people are also at increased risk of experiencing poverty.
Because of stigma and discrimination, LGBTQ+ people are at greater risk of housing instability. Last year the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the Fair Housing Act would also protect individuals from sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. It’s a step in the right direction to expand federal protections for a vulnerable group. According to experts, improving school safety, workplace protections, and expanded housing options will benefit the LGBTQ+ community.
In Portland, Oregon, Queer Affinity Village is a welcoming atmosphere for LGBTQ+ self-identified neighbors. The village has 35 Pallet shelters, a dignified, private space with a locking door, bed, climate control, electrical outlets to power personal devices, and more. Residents have access to hygiene facilities, meals, and various social services delivered by an on-site service provider. Residents are working towards moving into permanent housing.
Homelessness is a complex issue without a one size fits all solution. Because of the unique obstacles LGBTQ+ youth and adults face, it’s imperative agencies and organizations tailor services to their needs.
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