A working group here in Philadelphia is seeking to find a solution to the LGBTQ youth homelessness problem. They recently received a briefing from the Attic Youth Center and the numbers and facts they presented are staggering and eye opening.
According to the briefing…
Nationally there is an estimated 1.6 million to 2.8 million homeless youth in the United States out of that 40% of these homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.
Locally we find that “during the Philadelphia school year, 1,688 LGBTQ children and youth experience homelessness. On any given school day, 720 LGBTQ children and youth are experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia.” And, “of the 2,500 Philadelphia youth ages 18 -20 who have been discharged from DHS (Department of Human Services), an estimated 1,000 are LGBTQ.”
Existing housing for homeless youth in Philadelphia is dismal. According to the Attic, “emergency youth shelters have a total of 18 beds available for youth who are not involved with DHS,” and “only one youth program exists in the city that offers crisis shelter for youth 18 -21 (they can accommodate up to 60 youth when using floor mats)” and “there are 91 beds available for the 2,500 youth ages 18 -20 who have been discharged from DHS.
As you can clearly see there is a housing crisis among our homeless youth, especially our LGBTQ younger brothers and sisters who disproportionately make up the youth homelessness crisis.
To help the working group understand LGBTQ homeless youth issues better, the Attic put together a focus group of 20 LGBTQ youth, whose average age was 19, “all of whom had some experience with homelessness and/or were currently homeless.” The average age of the first group of homeless youth was 16.8 years old.
The focus group was asked three questions:
- How did you become homeless?
- What was your experience after you became homeless?
- What would your ideal housing program look like?
Nationally the top five reasons why LGBTQ youth are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless is that 46% ran away because the family rejected their sexual orientation or gender identity, 43% were forced out by parents because of sexual orientation or gender identity, 32% because of physical, emotional or sexual abuse at home, 17% because of aging out of the foster care system and 14% because of financial or emotional neglect from their families.
The experience of our homeless youth is a sad story for these brave LGBTQ persons.
“I stayed at 4-5 different shelters while trying to get into a youth housing program. I was living day by day and was assaulted regularly. I still wake up terrified each day,” reported one focus group member. Another said, “as a trans woman, staying at the shelter was as scary as it gets.” Another youth “stayed at a shelter and was sexually assaulted.”
Another added that “at the youth housing program, I was told that if I told my roommates I was gay they would hurt me or try to sleep with me. I was kicked out a month later after someone planted a knife in my locker.”
This is scandalous.
The needs in this city alone are so great and overwhelming that it is hard to know where to start first, but bravo to this working group for taking up the cause and helping to seek a solution to this problem.
In time your help will be needed to help fund the solution, as we cannot count on the government on this one. Until then do what you can do to help alleviate the suffering and misery of our homeless queer youth.