Primary Sources: Trauma and Homelessness in the Lives of LGBTQ Youth

Photograph of a young man looking worried.

"Struggling to Survive: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning Homeless Youth on the Streets of California" (PDF, 1496KB), California Homeless Youth Project, March 2011.

What it’s about: This report discusses the reasons lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning, or LGBTQ, youth become homeless and the special challenges they face  on the street.

Why read it: LGBTQ youth are over-represented among homeless youth. Once on the street, they are more likely than other youth to experience hate crimes and other trauma, be sexually exploited, engage in survival sex, use drugs and have mental health problems. Youth workers need to understand the particular dangers homeless LGBTQ young people face in order to help them effectively.

Biggest takeaways for youth workers: The authors encourage a strengths-based approach to working with homeless young people and offer specific recommendations for working with LGBTQ youth. Suggestions include the following:

  • providing increased support and early intervention for families with sexual minority youth
  • increasing community awareness about issues LGBTQ youth face
  • creating safe spaces free of homophobia
  • encouraging LGBTQ adults to become foster parents or mentors
  • engaging LGBTQ youth in designing appropriate services and support
  • developing new services that address the needs of all homeless youth

Additional Reference: NCFY's "Serving Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Youth With Open Arms" provides practical tips for youth workers who want to better serve LGBTQ youth. "Homeless Youth Finds Sobriety and Stability" is a first-person video by a young gay man who, with help from a youth program, is recovering from homelessness and addiction.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of these and other publications.)

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