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Researchers: No simple solutions for tackling LGBTQ youth-homelessness crisis
by Matt Simonette

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A newly released brief by an area research institute is shedding light on the issue of youth homelessness, which, according to the report, is experienced by one in 10 young adults between the ages of 18-25 and one in 30 adolescents between 13-17.

Chapin Hall, a youth-centered policy research center affiliated with the University of Chicago, released the report, Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America, on Nov. 15. It was compiled as part of the Voices of Youth Count policy research initiative.

"We have a collective obligation to ensure all young people have a chance to succeed, starting from a young age," said Bryan Samuels, executive director of Chapin Hall in a statement. "Intervening and building stability during adolescence and young adulthood for those at highest risk will have lifelong effects. As a country, we can look for the missed opportunities in schools, communities and public services to prevent youth homelessness."

The data was culled from a survey of 26,161 individuals and among its findings, directly addresses specific populations, including LGBT youth, who are at greater risk of experiencing homelessness. According to the report, LGBT youth are at a 120 percent higher risk of experiencing homelessness.

Chapin Hall researchers said they would specifically address LGBT youth experiencing homelessness, as well as other at-risk populations, in future reports. Other at-risk populations include black and Hispanic youths, youth who do not complete high school and youth who are parents.

Among the findings researchers said should direct future governmental actions—all pointing to broad systemic challenges—are that youth homelessness remains a hidden yet widespread issue; involves diverse experiences and circumstances; requires prevention and early intervention efforts; affects rural youth at the the same levels as it does individuals in urban or suburban areas; and remains a larger risk for specific populations of youth.

"Our survey looked to give the nation—for the first time—a fuller view of youth homelessness by finding young people who don't always get counted through systems and community-based efforts," said Matthew Morton, a research fellow at Chapin Hall. "We know that if we stop youth homelessness early, this prevents deeper homelessness and reduces public costs in the future. With new evidence in hand, Congress can support action."

A simultaneous Chapin Hall report focusing on youths experiencing homelessness in Cook County. In that survey, 25 percent of homeless and unstably housed youth in Cook County identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning, transgender or asexual. About 1,039 homeless or unstably housed youth were surveyed. Researchers noted that many youths might have felt uncomfortable divulging such information, but said findings suggested that the percentage of LGBT persons among youths experiencing homelessness was significantly higher than the percentage of LGBT persons among the general population.

Researchers included an "other" category encompassing transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex persons, among others, when measuring gender identity numbers among Cook County respondents. About 4 percent of respondents chose the "other" category, while 56 percent identified as male and 40 percent identified as female.

Additionally, among Cook County respondents, 65 percent were African American; 13 percent were Latinx; 12 percent were white; six percent were multiracial; and five percent answered "other."

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