3. Why is there a high rate of homelessness in the LGBTQ2S+ community?

Throughout this chapter, on Gender & Queer Studies, we have encouraged you to think about the experiences of cisgender and transgender individuals. Here we dive further into explorations of how gender identity, sex, and sexual orientation impact a person’s experience of homelessness. We have chosen to use the acronym “LGBTQ2S+” throughout this book but recognize that there are different iterations of terms that are included (or not) in other versions. For instance, you may have heard “LGBT” or “LGBTQ,” which are also commonly used. We have selected to use the longer acronym as an attempt to represent as many identities as possible, including, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, 2-Spirit, + other identities not captured by the previous letters.

 

It is an undisputed fact that there is a high rate of homelessness amongst people who identify as LGBTQ2S+. For this reason, we did not ask the question of whether they are more likely to experience homelessness, but instead chose the more complex question of why the rates are so high. Before continuing to the material in this section, we invite you to pause here and consider this question on your own first. You may use the space below to record your thoughts. Feel free to write as little or much as you would like to answer this question.

 

How to complete this activity and save your work: Type your response to the question in the box below. When you are done answering the question navigate to the ‘Export’ page to download and save your response. If you prefer to work in a Word document offline you can skip right to the Export section and download a Word document with this question there.

 

We began the Introduction chapter by asking the question, “What is homelessness?” This was intentionally done so that we started our discussion with a shared definition and understanding of what we meant by homelessness. In much the same way, we begin this section on LGBTQ2S+ homelessness with a review of definitions and key terms. Whether you are keenly familiar with this acronym, you have heard it but are unsure what it means, or this is your first introduction, we invite you to watch this brief explanatory video created by the TASCC AHS Sexual & Reproductive Health Calgary Zone. 

 

 

While Canada prides itself (yes, pun intended) on being an inclusive nation, we are still far from being an equitable and egalitarian society in practice. It is important that we recognize the experience of gender and sexually diverse individuals as a standalone chapter, but also throughout this book as issues of gender and sexuality intersect with all aspects of homelessness. Structural issues, like homophobia and transphobia, create enormous barriers for people in all sectors across our society. We see these barriers in housing, health care, mental health care, and education, among many others. We can see in the quote below, how a person’s LGBTQ2S+ identity may be a source of discrimination in their lives, such as when at school. 

 

Quote Source

 

Much of what we know about LGBTQ2S+ homelessness comes from research on youth who have been forced to leave home and are experiencing homelessness or housing instability as a result. It can be difficult to know exactly how many young people there are that fit this description in Canada. LGBTQ2S+ youth may be reluctant to identify themselves, for fear of discrimination or violence, and may be more likely to find alternatives to staying in shelters. For these reasons, we do not have an exact figure. However, estimates suggest that 20-40% of young people experiencing homelessness are LGBTQ2S+, which is largely over-representative of the estimated 5-10% of the housed youth LGBTQ2S+ population (Abramovich & Shelton, 2017b). This tells us that although these youth make up a small percentage of the population, many of them become homeless. Consider this figure as you watch the video below of Dr. Naomi Thulien speaking about the high percentages. 

 

Dr. Naomi Thulien: Why is there a high rate of homelessness in the LGBTQ2S+ community?

In this video, Dr. Naomi Thulien explains that 20-40% of young people who experience homelessness identify as LGBTQ2S+. They often are forced to leave home because their families do not accept them but that some might find a sense of community among other LGBTQ2S+ youth who are also experiencing homelessness. This video is 0:46 in length and has closed captions available in English.

Key Takeaways – Dr. Naomi Thulien: Why is there a high rate of homelessness in the LGBTQ2S+ community? 

  1. Studies show that anywhere between 20-40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ2S+.
  2. These youth often leave home because they are not accepted by their families.
  3. They may find a sense of community among other LGBTQ2S+ youth experiencing homelessness.

 

Dr. Alex Abramovich: Why is there a high rate of homelessness in the LGBTQ2S+ community?

In this video, Dr. Alex Abramovich states that up to 40% of young people experiencing homelessness in Canada identify as LGBTQ2S+, which means they are disproportionately over-represented. He argues that while family conflict is a leading cause of youth homelessness in general, for LGBTQ2S+ youth, this conflict is often specifically tied to the young person’s identity. He notes that this conflict might arise after a youth has disclosed their sexual orientation, and either has been forced out of the home directly or has found the environment to be so unsafe and unsupportive that they feel they have no choice but to leave. This video is 1:51 in length and has closed captions available in English.

Key Takeaways – Dr. Alex Abramovich: Why is there a high rate of homelessness in the LGBTQ2S+ community?

  1. Up to 40% of young people experiencing homelessness in Canada identify as LGBTQ2S+. This means they are disproportionately over-represented among this population.
  2. One of the primary causes for youth homelessness, in general, is leaving home or being forced out because of family conflict.
    • LGBTQ2S+ youth are often kicked out of the house or forced to leave because of a more specific kind of identity-based family conflict.
    • Often this conflict results from a young person who has come out [i.e. identified themselves as LGBTQ2S+] to their parents or families, and are either kicked out directly or find that the home environment becomes so unsafe and unsupportive that they feel they must leave.

 

In a study with 16 LGBTQ2S+ youth experiencing homelessness, CĂ´tĂŠ and Blais (2021) found that all of their participants reported having lived in a family environment that was neglectful and led to decreased self-confidence and trust in their families. They identified this family neglect as a starting point for three trajectories toward homelessness. These included being evicted by families that perpetuate heterocisnormative victimization, aging out of youth protection services without supports in place, and fleeing form bullying at school as an attempt to gain freedom and support. Reflecting on their findings, CĂ´tĂŠ and Blais (2021) note that it is important to develop homelessness prevention strategies for LGBTQ2S+ youth that consider the heterocisnormativity they experience in different life environments.

 

Heterocisnormativity is a big word that you may not have previously heard. That’s okay. Part of the work of preventing and ending LGBTQ2S+ homelessness is recognizing shortcomings in our collective knowledge. Even in writing this chapter, it becomes apparent to us as authors (although you will not see it as readers) that words like heterocisnormative and heterocisnormativity are so uncommonly used in daily language that they are underlined in squiggly red by our word processor, suggesting we are using a word that does not exist (although it most certainly does). Let’s break it down. Hetero / cis refers to the pairing of a cisgender man and a cisgender woman (i.e. two people whose gender identity matches the sex organs they were born with). When two such people partner, we can consider it a hetero cisgender relationship. Normative means that this kind of relationship is what society deems to be the normal or the accepted way of forming partnerships. What this normative aspect means is that our society shuts down pairings or relationships that fall outside this single view. Again, we bump into the problem of traditionally narrow gender and sexual ideas not being broad enough to account for the reality of people’s self-identities.

 

Perhaps a concrete example would be beneficial here. Young LGBTQ2S+ people who have left home often have few places they can go for support. They may have to resign themselves to using homelessness agencies to meet their basic needs for shelter and food, despite the heterocisnormative cultures that often exist within them (CĂ´tĂŠ & Blais, 2019). Sometimes the societal privileging of cisgender and heterosexual people is overtly acted upon as LGBTQ2S+ persons may be abused physically, sexually, and mentally within these spaces. At other times, the heterocisnormative violence may be less obvious to those who are not impacted by it. In the video that follows, we see an example of this as the young transgender person seeking support is asked to check a box indicating whether they are male or female and then to proceed to a room in the area designated for people of that biological sex. This act of assuming the person checking a box is cisgender, determining which area they sleep in on the basis of that assumption, and then not offering tailored supports if they resist the cisgender assumptions is just one example of the challenges these young people face in seeking support.

 

 

Dr. Alex Abramovich (2016) has written about the cyclical nature of the challenges young LGBTQ2S+ people face when seeking to access supports in heterocisnormative shelter systems. He explains that the lack of LGBTQ2S+ training in the shelter system leaves staff unprepared to intervene in situations of homophobia and transphobia that arise, which then increases homophobia and transphobia in the shelter system, reducing the chances LGBTQ2S+ youths’ needs are met, causing them to avoid the shelter system, meaning shelter staff know even less about these young people, and back to the beginning of the cycle with the lack of LGBTQ2S+ training in the shelter system (Abramovich, 2016). In a subsequent study Dr. Abramovich (2017) triangulated data from interviews, focus groups, observations, and document analysis for 33 LGBTQ2S+ youth and found that the systemic enactment of homophobia, transphobia, and hegemonic / traditional forms of masculinity are often normalized in shelters and create significant barriers to these youth accessing safe and supportive services. 


What do you think?

human head with light bulb as brain graphicLGBTQ2S+ individuals are discriminated against in many homelessness agencies that are not designed to offer inclusive supports. What do you think it would feel like to be a person who identifies as transgender, is young, and has to seek support from a shelter that is not designed for LGBTQ2S+ persons? 


Throughout this section, we often cite research conducted by Dr. Alex Abramovich, whose work has been widely influential in drawing people’s attention to the need for LGBTQ2S+ specific supports, and in advocating for their implementation across Canada. Here we invite you to watch some of his earlier work entitled, “Teal’s Story” which is a digital storytelling project in which Teal shares their experience of navigating hostile shelter environments as a young person who was in the process of transitioning. 

 

 

Society’s long-held narrow views on gender and sexual identities are prevalent in many homes and within the shelter system. This leaves young LGBTQ2S+ people with few options for support. The longer a young person is without housing, the more trauma they will face related to homelessness and the more difficult it will be to get them securely rehoused. For this reason, early intervention strategies that rapidly move LGBTQ2S+ youth back into housing are critically important. Abramovich and Pang (2020) have noted that despite the high rates of family conflict and estrangement, many of these young people continue to have regular contact with at least one supportive family member. Engaging the families of LGBTQ2S+ youth provides opportunities for reunification or extended family support, but only if it is safe. Dr. Abramovich explains in the next video why getting supportive family engagement is challenging, but also why it has the potential to be life– saving. 

 

Dr. Alex Abramovich: Working with families to support LGBTQ2S+ youth

In this video, Dr. Alex Abramovich argues that prevention and early intervention of LGBTQ2S+ youth begin with educating and working with families of these young people. He notes the startling statistic that LGBTQ2S+ youth who come from families that reject them are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide than those who receive familial support. Dr. Abramovich states that there are programs and interventions to help the families of these young people better understand, but that they must be willing and open to engage with them. This video is 2:20 in length and has closed captions available in English.

Key Takeaways – Dr. Alex Abramovich: Working with families to support LGBTQ2S+ youth

  1. Prevention and early intervention for LGBTQ2S+ youth have a lot to do with working with families to help them understand and accept the young person’s sexuality.
  2. LGBTQ2S+ youth who come from families that reject them are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than those who receive familial support.
  3. There are some programs that are tailored to parents and families of LGBTQ2S+ youth, but there must be openness and willingness on the side of the parents / family to engage with the programs and interventions.
    • Families who reject a young person because of their sexuality are not likely to be receptive to these kinds of supports.
    • If the family willingness is not there, it is very difficult to provide any sort of education on how to support a young person when they come out.
    • The statistics around youth suicide attempts should be a wake-up call to families who are not willing to turn to the resources and tools that are available to support and help them.

 

LGBTQ2S+ youth often have poor mental health. Abramovich and Pang (2020) found in their study that 75% of participants had self-harmed in the past year and that 1 in 3 had attempted suicide in the same time frame. Transgender individuals, in particular, have been found to have higher rates of drug use (Scheim, Bauer, & Shokoohi, 2017) and higher rates of mental and physical comorbidities compared to cisgender individuals (Abramovich, Lam, & Chowdhury, 2020). Clearly these are patterns, but what they point to is structural deficiencies rather than individual failings. When we see these trends – of greater self harm, mental illness, drug use, and suicide – we have to stop and ask why. Why are there higher rates in this population of people? To be clear, these outcomes are not the by-product of people’s gender identities and/or sexual orientations. Rather, it is a response to being continually and systematically shut out of society. Think back to the example of the youth trying to access support at a shelter and facing discrimination. This is just one brief moment of harm among many compounding harms, both large and small.

 

If people who identify as transgender and in other non-heterocisnormative ways experience high rates of mental illness, substance use, and self-harm – as they do – it is because society creates the conditions for this to occur. What if we stopped? Imagine for a moment that instead of viewing gender and sexual orientation in narrow ways that miss (or obliterate) the experiences of a large proportion of our society, we instead redefined a new normal. How would Canada be a better place to live, a place where we could have pride (yes, again intended) in knowing people have equitable access to the care and support they need no matter how they identify as a person? We encourage you to consider these questions as you watch the next video about Dr. James Makokis, who is an Indigenous two-spirit Doctor who works with transgender youth in Alberta. Before you begin watching, we have two points of note: yes, it is the same Dr. Makokis who was a contestant on The Amazing Race Canada, and more importantly this video discusses suicide and viewers should use discretion in deciding whether watching it is right for them.

 

 

It is important to consider not only the need for LGBTQ2S+ supports, but the ways in which they should be tailored to different populations. We have seen this already, in the first section about women’s needs. In much the same way, there are intersecting factors that need to be considered so that we do not put forth a misguided “one size fits all” model. We have seen in the video above that culturally- appropriate supports are beneficial for Indigenous youth. This is key because research has shown that LGBTQ2S+ Indigenous youth are more likely to engage in self-harm, to have seriously considered suicide, or to have attempted suicide (Saewyc et al., 2017). While this study found that 51% of the Indigenous LGBTQ2S+ youth in the study attempted suicide in the preceding year, compared to 22% of heterosexual cisgender Indigenous youth, they also found positive health outcomes amongst LGBTQ2S+ Indigenous youth who were involved in traditional or cultural activities (Saewyc et al., 2017). These findings demonstrate the pressing nature of the issue, while also directing us towards some potential solutions.

 

Connecting with culturally appropriate supports is an important approach for other groups of LGBTQ2S+ youth as well. For instance, although there are some organizations and spaces, like the Black Queer Youth initiative that are exclusively for Black and queer-identified young people (Benn, 2017), we are lacking a clear understanding of how the combination of being a young person of racial, gender, and sexual minority might interact with experiences of homelessness (Gattis & Larson, 2017). It is essential that we learn more about the experiences of different LGBTQ2S+ youth, such as those who are racialized, in order to offer tailored interventions that meet their needs, as they define them. Notably, in one study of racialized LGBTQ2S+ youth, they spoke about demands placed upon them by support services that they define themselves either as a racial minority or a sexual minority, without recognition of how to support them in being both (McCready, 2017).

 

Supporting people who identify as LGBTQ2S+ and are experiencing homelessness requires that we understand their intersecting identity markers. We have seen, for instance, how this might include an Indigenous identity and/or a racialized identity. What we also must consider is that not all people who are LGBTQ2S+ and experience homelessness are youth. There are adults and seniors who are gender or sexual minorities and experience homelessness in somewhat similar and somewhat different ways than their youth counterparts. Bardwell (2019) cautions that older LGBTQ2S+ individuals experiencing homelessness also face discrimination, harassment, exclusionary policies, and limited accommodations in shelters, but that we cannot allow the emphasis on youth to render the experiences of these adults invisible.

 

At this point, we invite you to pause and read about LGBTQ2S+ adult homelessness. Redden et al., (2021) conducted focus groups in five Canadian cities in which participants spoke about their experiences and perceptions of safe, affordable, and affirming housing for older LGBTQ2S+ people. As you read, we encourage you to consider how these experiences are similar or different from what you have learned about youth.


Featured Reading:

open book graphicRedden, M., Gahagan, J., Kia, H., Humble, Á. M., Stinchcombe, A., Manning, E., Ecker, J., de Vries, B., Gambold, L. L., Oliver, B., & Thomas, R. (2021). Housing as a determinant of health for older LGBT Canadians: Focus group findings from a national housing study. Housing and Society, 1–25.


In this article, the authors identified many considerations around homelessness for older LGBTQ2S+ persons, such as the lifelong reality and fear of discrimination, need to recognize diversity within this population, operationalize inclusive housing philosophies, address isolation and exclusion, and provide these individuals with access to appropriate housing and supports (Redden et al., 2021). Dr. John Ecker is a co-author on this article and has studied adult LGBTQ2S+ homelessness for several years. In one analysis of 143 articles, his team found that LGBTQ2S+ adults who experience homelessness have unique physical and mental health challenges, in part related to HIV and substance use, and that transgender and non-conforming adults face challenges to their safety in the homelessness system (Ecker, Aubry, & Sylvestre, 2019). There are many structural barriers related to these adults’ homelessness, such as sexual minority wage gaps and exclusion from the labour market (Waite, Ecker, & Ross, 2019). There also exists structural pathways into homelessness for these individuals, related to discrimination and sexual/gender–based victimization, as well as interpersonal pathways often linked to substance use (Ecker, Aubry, & Sylvestre, 2020). When residing in emergency shelters, LGBTQ2S+ adults report engaging in various identity management strategies as a form of protection (Ecker, Aubry, & Sylvestre, 2021). In the video that follows, Dr. John Ecker speaks about his research on adult LGBTQ2S+ homelessness in Canada.

 

Dr. John Ecker: Why is there a high rate of homelessness in the LGBTQ2S+ community?

In this video, Dr. John Ecker argues that LGBTQ2S+ young people are a dramatically over-represented group among individuals experiencing homelessness, largely due to homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia within the home. He states that once a young person who identifies as LGBTQ2S+ becomes homeless there are often few services available that are tailored specifically to this group’s needs, and that as a result of discrimination within shelters and agencies, many of these youth will avoid seeking out services. Dr. Ecker further notes that while we have some research on young people, less is known about LGBTQ2S+ adults and seniors experiencing homelessness. There is some preliminary data that suggests these individuals may face discrimination by landlords and employers, prefer LGBTQ2S+ services tailored to adults and seniors, and benefit from community building practices. Dr. Ecker concludes that more research needs to be done on LGBTQ2S+ homelessness, which researchers can undertake by regularly asking questions about gender and sexual orientation and doing so in a way that is informed by diverse categories rather than binaries. This video is 6:19 in length and has closed captions available in English.

Key Takeaways – Dr. John Ecker: Why is there a high rate of homelessness in the LGBTQ2S+ community?

  1. LGBTQ2S+ young people are dramatically over-represented among people experiencing homelessness.
    • This type of homelessness is often the result of homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia within the home, through parents rejecting the young person’s sexual and/or gender identity.
  2. Once an LGBTQ2S+ young person becomes homeless there are often few services available to them that are specific to the LGBTQ2S+ community.
    • As a result, these youth may avoid the shelter system as a whole and sleep rough, which can further their experience or risk of experiencing violence on the street.
    • The shelter system itself can be homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic coming from other residents and staff, particularly if the organization is tied to religious institutions that do not accept the LGBTQ2S+ community.
  3. Less is known about LGBTQ2S+ adults and seniors experiencing homelessness.
    • Early point-in-time data is beginning to emerge, but it is too preliminary to make determinations about the percentage of the population who identify as LGBTQ2S+ adults and seniors.
    • We do know that LGBTQ2S+ adults and seniors, particularly those who are racialized, experience transphobia and racism from landlords and employers, which limits their ability to find housing and employment.
    • Adults and seniors require specialized services in general. Those who identify as LGBTQ2S+ may want to see staff at emergency shelters, housing programs, and health care who are also experienced in LGBTQ2S+ care.
    • Building community among other LGBTQ2S+ adults and seniors who have experienced homelessness is something that is critical but not often considered in general service delivery.
  4. Sexual orientation is often not included as a variable in studies about homelessness, creating limited data and resulting in a gap in the research literature.
    • When sexual orientation and/or gender are included in research, they tend to still be presented as binaries, such as ‘man or woman.’
    • Researchers may fall into the trap of using existing protocols that did not contain thorough questions about gender and sexual orientation. It is important for researchers to seek out resources to help them define different categories of gender and sexual orientation.
    • If we do not ask questions about sexual orientation in research it causes erasure and a missed opportunity to learn about people’s unique support needs.

 

Dr. Ecker notes that research on gender-identity and sexual orientation is limited because many studies on homelessness do not contain questions that explore these characteristics in depth. This is certainly interesting to consider from a researcher’s perspective, but it also has implications for policy and practice. How do we know what services and supports are needed, if we do not have a keen understanding of the populations themselves? We have seen that there are a range of ways a person can identify their gender and sexual orientation, as well as how these intersect with race, ethnicity, Indigeneity, and age (among arguably many more demographic factors). We have also seen quite clearly that early intervention is key to preventing people from falling into long-term, chronic homelessness and all the harms that brings. Here we must ask ourselves, what can we do to learn more about the diversity of LGBTQ2S+ persons experiencing homelessness, to better tailor our responses? The next video was produced by our partners at the Homeless Hub to help communities better understand how to collect data on who is experiencing homelessness where they live in ways that are inclusive, affirming, and safe for LGBTQ2S+ individuals. Here Dr. Alex Abramovich explains.

 

 

Data gathering, whether through research or community counts, is done with the intention of learning more about a population and being able to implement evidence-informed solutions tailored for them. Dr. Abramovich (2018) has written about the intervention components that he has found to be important based on his own research with LGBTQ2S+ youth experiencing homelessness. These include creating policies and standards that are affirming and culturally inclusive of people’s diverse identities. This can be done through mandatory staff training, development of a standardized intake process that accurately reflects people’s diverse identities, creating a welcoming physical environment with representative images in clear view, establishing a formal and safe grievance procedure, developing an integrated approach to mental health services that are trauma-informed, affirming, and accessible, involving youth in planning for their needs, offering programs that recognize the intersectionality of people’s backgrounds, and preventing chronic homelessness by reuniting youth with their families when safe, and rapidly rehousing them elsewhere when not (Abramovich, 2018).

 

There are many steps that organizations can take to make their services more inclusive for all LGBTQ2S+ persons. There are also some organizations that have emerged exclusively to address the unique needs of this population. In the next video, Dr. Abramovich speaks about the need to advocate for services and how we are beginning to see progress towards the realization of dedicated LGBTQ2S+ transitional housing and support programs in Canada.

 

Dr. Alex Abramovich: Transitional housing for LGBTQ2S youth

In this video, Dr. Alex Abramovich discusses how advocacy can be used to provide government officials with evidence supporting the need for LGBTQ2S+ population-specific programs. He notes that we are starting to see an increase in these types of support services across Canada, citing the opening of two LGBTQ2S+ transitional housing programs for youth in Toronto. Dr. Abramovich says that research shows these population-specific programs are successful and necessary, but that there is still more to learn and work to be done. This video is 1:59 in length and has closed captions available in English.

Key Takeaways – Dr. Alex Abramovich: Transitional housing for LGBTQ2S youth

  1. Effective advocacy can take the form of working with all levels of government and providing evidence that shows the need for population-based services and in particular population-based housing for LGBTQ2S+ persons experiencing homelessness.
  2. In Canada, we are starting to see more LGBTQ2S+ population-specific programs opening.
    • Canada very recently opened one of the first transitional housing programs geared towards LGBTQ2S+ youth, through the Toronto-located YMCA Sprott House. A second city-funded one followed shortly thereafter.
    • Research shows that these dedicated types of programs work, are very successful, and are absolutely necessary.
    • There is still a lot more to learn about LGBTQ2S+ support needs and service implementation.

 

The YMCA Sprott House opened in February 2016, as Canada’s first transitional housing program with 25 beds for LGBTQ2S+ youth between the ages of 16 and 24 (Abramovich & Kimura, 2019). The goal of the program is to create a safe and affirming space for these youth while also supporting them as they increase their independence and ability to find affordable and stable housing of their own within the community (Abramovich & Kimura, 2019). Reflecting on their time living at YMCA Sprott House, Morgan has written, “I’ve been able to do some soul-searching through feeling comfortable enough in a positive space to reflect and grow as a person. It has helped me to become true to myself by being around those who are accepting of my identity – staff and youth. The fact that the staff at Sprott House aren’t cis and straight has made such a difference for me. I’ve been able to see positive examples of trans men and non-binary people, and positive examples of masculinity in general” (Miller, Bissoondial, & Morgan, 2017, pg. 179).

 

An evaluation of the YMCA Sprott House has similarly found that the young residents feel safer, gain exposure to staff and other residents who help to normalize gender and sexually diverse identities, explore their true and authentic selves, and move forward with an improved sense of mental wellness (Abramovich & Kimura, 2019). Notably one of the biggest challenges is the time restriction, which is needed to open spaces for more youth but can also serve as a ticking clock for those who are already residing there (Miller et al., 2017). Fortunately, there have been developments with new LGBTQ2S+ programs, including additional transitional housing, opening since the Sprott House. Programs that help LGBTQ2S+ youth are life- saving but they in themselves are not enough – they must be part of a comprehensive strategy that is coordinated and seeks to prevent homelessness before it occurs (Abramovich & Shelton, 2017a). These efforts must be considered not as a piecemeal assemblage of services located across the country, but rather as a systems-wide approach with governmental funding and support (French, 2017).

 

Change begins with knowledge. If you are interested in learning more and sharing what you have learned with others, we encourage you to check out these resources.

the 519 logo

 

Visit the 519 website for a complete set of LGBTQ2S+ youth homelessness in Canada infographics that you can print and post for others to read.


homelessness learning hub logo

If you want to learn more about homelessness among women and gender diverse people, sign up for this free online Homelessness Learning Hub training course that contains six lessons and gives a certificate of completion to those who complete them successfully.

 

The rates of homelessness are high for people who identify as LGBTQ2S+ in Canada, and we have asked you to consider why this occurs. We have seen estimates that 20-40% of youth who experience homelessness are amongst this population, which largely results from familial rejection of their gender and/or sexual identity. There are certainly many pathways into homelessness for these youth, such as related to child welfare involvement and institutional discrimination, but family conflict remains a pressing factor. We saw that limited notions of gender and sexuality within our society shape the discriminatory responses these individuals face in their homes and across society. This results from heterocisnormativity, which the word processor still does not understand (cue the red squiggles) but by now we hope has become clearer to you. Recall the experience of Teal who sought help from an emergency shelter only to be forced back into a gender identity that was not authentic and a physical environment that was outwardly hostile.

 

We learned that people who identify as LGBTQ2S+ have higher rates of mental illness, substance use, self-harm, and suicide. This is not because of their gender or sexual orientation, but rather because society prevents them from being able to freely express it. Recall the video of the Indigenous youth who attempted suicide and the depth of impact receiving treatment from someone who understood had on their well-being. People who identify as LGBTQ2S+ have many intersecting identities. Indigenous identity, being a racialized person, and/or being an adult or senior are just some of the identities that overlap with gender and sexual identity, and that need tailored responses.

 

We may be reluctant to ask questions about people’s gender and sexual identities, but by not doing so we miss the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding. It is possible to conduct research and engage in counts in ways that are inclusive, safe, and respectful of people’s diverse and intersecting identities. This information is critical for helping us design and implement programs that meet people’s unique needs. Tailored supports, like the YMCA Sprott House, are critically important but we must also realize that real change will take dedication, effort, and a coordinated approach that reflects commitment to inclusive change across the country.

 

Podcast: Why is there a high rate of homelessness in the LGBTQ2S+ community? (14:13)

Click the link below to listen to all of the researchers answer the question “Why is there a high rate of homelessness in the LGBTQ2S+ community?” in audio format on our podcast!

 


 

 

 

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Understanding Homelessness in Canada Copyright © 2022 by Kristy Buccieri, James Davy, Cyndi Gilmer, and Nicole Whitmore is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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