Toronto - Canada and the U.S. need to better serve the unique needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and Two-Spirit ( LGBTQ2S ) youth experiencing homelessness, says a new book published by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness ( COH ).
"LGBTQ2S youth homelessness is a big problem, involving other big problems, like poverty, racism, cissexism, transphobia, heterosexism, homophobia, and colonialism. It can overwhelm us if we let it. We aren't going to let it. It is solvable," says Dr. Jama Shelton, co-editor of the book and assistant professor at Silberman School of Social Work in the U.S.
This International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the COH is releasing the first-ever academic text that focuses specifically on LGBTQ2S youth homelessness in both Canada and the U.S.
"Where Am I Going to Go? Intersectional Approaches to Ending LGBTQ2S Youth Homelessness in Canada & the U.S." calls for any programs dealing with youth homelessness to explicitly address homophobia, transphobia and the particular needs of LGBTQ2S youth.
Research shows that LGBTQ2S youth make up a disproportionate number of youth experiencing homelessness in Canada and the U.S. Estimated to comprise 20-40% of the overall homeless youth population, the percentage of LGBTQ2S youth experiencing homelessness is at least three times greater than the percentage of the general LGBTQ2S youth population, thought to be between 5-10% of the overall youth population.
"It is time for all levels of government to commit to a national strategy to end LGBTQ2S youth homelessness. This will allow us to respond to the unique needs of LGBTQ2S youth in rural and urban communities, and will place specialized housing with integrated supports at the forefront. A national strategy to end LGBTQ2S youth homelessness is a promise that we will no longer tolerate homophobia, transphobia, or biphobia," says Dr. Alex Abramovich, co-editor of the book and Scientist with the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health ( CAMH ) in Toronto, Canada.
The chapters in this book show the experience of homelessness is different for LGBTQ2S youth compared to heterosexual and cisgender youth for various reasons, including high rates of social stigma, and homophobic and transphobic violence on the streets and at shelters and support services. Therefore, preventing, reducing and ending LGBTQ2S youth homelessness requires specialized responses and targeted strategies.
Each chapter addresses a specific need and its associated barriers for LGBTQ2S youth, accompanied by case studies of successful program interventions exemplifying how to put the chapter's information into action. Personal stories of youth with lived experiences are also included. Moreover, the book contributes to the limited existing research about LGBTQ2S Indigenous youth who are experiencing homelessness in Canada.
The anticipated outcome of this book is the sharing of new knowledge, which will directly contribute to development of LGBTQ2S-inclusive and affirming systems, policies and service provision in both Canada and the U.S.
"We believe that all young people deserve a safe place to call home, and that if we work together, it is possible to end LGBTQ2S youth homelessness" says Dr. Abramovich.
The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness is a non-profit, non-partisan research institute that is committed to conducting and mobilizing research in order to contribute to solutions to homelessness. For more information: homelesshub.ca, @homelesshub