Primary Sources: How Do LGBTQ Youth Experiencing Homelessness Feel About Family, School and Friends?

Photograph of a young man leaning on a city wall.

An Ecological Systems Comparison Between Homeless Sexual Minority Youth and Homeless Heterosexual Youth (abstract). Journal of Social Service Research, Vol. 39, No. 1 (2013).

What it’s about: The author interviewed homeless youth, ages 16 to 24, at three urban drop-in centers. The researcher wanted to explore how factors that put "sexual minority” youth at risk for homelessness might differ from those affecting heterosexual homeless youth. Of the 147 youth interviewed, 81 identified as heterosexual. The comparison group was made up of 66 youth who identified as “mostly heterosexual,” “bisexual,” “gay or lesbian,” “asexual,” “pansexual,” or “transgender.”

Why read it: Research has found that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning homeless youth are more likely to experience mental health problems, abuse substances and have risky sex than are heterosexual homeless youth. This new study builds on that body of research by exploring ways that LGBTQ homeless youth might be helped or hurt by their families, schools, peer groups and societal stigma and discrimination.

Biggest takeaways for youth workers: The author used questions from eight different evidence-based screening tools to compare the two groups of youth. He found that the group that identified as sexual minority was more at risk almost across the board. They were more likely to

  • Be dissatisfied with family communication
  • Report more negative peer relationships
  • Have experienced violence as a result of stigma

The only area in which the groups of young people showed little difference was their feeling of belonging in school.

The author suggests that interventions specifically for LGBTQ homeless youth could focus on family acceptance and communication strategies. He also recommends helping LGBTQ homeless youth build more positive peer relationships.

Additional Reference: To read publications and training and resource materials on improving family communication and peer relationships for LGBTQ youth, visit the Family Acceptance Project website, and read NCFY’s interview with Caitlin Ryan, director of the project.

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

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