The shelter system as a whole is “utterly failing to provide safety or relief for transgender and gender non-conforming people facing a housing crisis,” according to a 2011 report by the National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Use these HUD tools to make shelter safer to transgender individuals.
Think about this: while approximately 5 to 7 percent of the general youth population identifies as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (LGBT), 9 to 45 percent of the homeless youth population does. In other words, LGBT youth are significantly more likely to be homeless than non-LGBT youth.
In addition to being over-represented among the homeless youth population, LGBT youth may also be more likely to be involved with the justice system due to arrests related to survival crimes (such as theft or sexual acts). When LGBT youth are in shelters, group homes, or foster homes, they often experience harassment or violence. As a result, they may resort to “survival sex” in order to avoid these living arrangements. (This is a term for sexual acts that are exchanged for money or goods required to meet life’s basic needs.)
Earlier this year, the Urban Institute released a report that examines the experiences of young Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) youth who have engaged in “survival sex” in New York City. Survival sex is a term frequently used to describe the exchange of sexual acts for money or goods that people require to live (e.g. food and shelter)
Of all the findings in this compelling report, “Surviving the Streets of New York,” one in particular should give homeless service providers pause: “Many [youth] … credited the instability and rules associated with emergency housing with driving them back to the street [and sexual exploitation].”
America places a lot of value on a story. A good story can top the New York Times Best Seller List or rake in millions at the box office. A good story can change the world.
At the True Colors Fund, we hear a lot of stories – from young people who have experienced homelessness, from the service providers who work with them, and from supporters across the country who want to make a difference. To the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) community, an important form of storytelling is “coming out.” Living authentically in one's affirmed sexual orientation or gender identity often means sharing that story time and time again. And it isn’t always easy.
Coming out as LGBTQ shouldn’t be a shameful thing. But, to many, it is. Experiencing homelessness shouldn’t be a shameful thing. But, to many, it is.
One of the most heart-breaking experiences I had as a case manager was with a lesbian client who was invited, with her biological children, to stay at the family shelter where I worked. But because the faith-based shelter’s rules excluded same-sex couples, her female partner was not allowed to join them, even though they were, undeniably, a family unit. That family, understandably, elected to continue living in their car rather than being broken up.
June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride month, and we at the Alliance (and I personally, as a proud L) want to use our blog this month to highlight issues around LGBT housing and homelessness. A good place to start is the basics of the fight for fair housing: ensuring that everyone has equal access to housing opportunities, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.