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America’s shame: 40% of homeless youth are LGBT kids

LOS ANGELES – About 40% of homeless youth are LGBT and nearly all homeless youth service providers in the U.S. now serve LGBT youth, according to a comprehensive report on LGBT youth homelessness released Thursday.

Nearly seven in 10 (68%) respondents indicated that family rejection was a major factor contributing to LGBT youth homelessness, making it the most cited factor. More than half (54%) of respondents indicated that abuse in their family was another important factor contributing to LGBT homelessness.

Statistically, LGBT youth make up no more than 10% of that population segment, yet total 40% of homeless youth.

“The findings from this survey demonstrate that many LGBT youth are at high risk of homelessness, often as a result of family rejection and abuse. The analyses offer critical insights into the challenges that these young people face when they seek help during a very difficult time in their lives,” said Laura E. Durso, Williams Institute Public Policy Fellow and study co-author.

The data comes from the LGBT Homeless Youth Provider Survey, a web-based survey conducted from October 2011 through March 2012 as a collaboration by The Palette Fund, True Colors Fund and the Williams Institute.

Among the key findings:

* 94% of respondents from agencies work with LGBT youth

* 30% of agency clients identified as gay or lesbian

* 9% identified as bisexual

* 1% identified as transgender

Additionally, more than 75% of responding agencies worked with transgender youth in the past year. Survey findings suggest that 30% of clients in housing programs targeting youth are LGBT.

A majority of LGBT youth are receiving services that are available to all young people, with 24% of agency youth-oriented programs specifically being designed for LGBT youth. This underscores the need to ensure that all services are open and welcoming to the disproportionate rate of LGBT homeless youth in need of support.

“The results of this survey act as further confirmation that America’s next generation of gay and transgender youth need us to stand with them so that they can stand on their own.” said Gregory Lewis, executive director of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Fund and its recently launched Forty to None Project, which seeks to empower LGBT homeless youth and raise awareness of the issues they face.

“One of our key findings shows that in order for that to happen we all need to join together and support the hard working and dedicated service providers helping these young people every day, we need to re-double our efforts to support them so they can help all of the youth in need,” he said.

Over the past 10 years, the percentage of homeless youth providers serving LGBT clients has increased from 82% to 94%. Responding agencies noted that a lack of sufficient funding was a serious barrier in service provision. Five of the top six barriers to improving services targeting LGBT homelessness relate to a lack of funding from all forms of government, foundations and the public.

“While we would all like to see an end to homelessness among all youth, it is encouraging to see how many providers are not only willing to serve LGBT youth, but recognize the unique challenges that they face. Finding additional resources to address those challenges will be critical to solving these difficult problems,” said Gary Gates, Williams Distinguished Scholar and study co-author.

“It is clear that these vital services need more attention and funding from both the public and private sectors and the time is now to start taking a stand in support of our youth,” said Terrence Meck, executive director of The Palette Fund. “I truly hope that Palette’s involvement will encourage other foundations and individuals to get involved in this important cause so we can start making a difference in these young peoples’ lives and help bring that 40% closer to zero.”

Based on data from 381 respondents, representing 354 agencies providing youth with homeless-related services, the report outlines key statistics on what LGBT youth populations are served by these agencies, who is most at risk, and why these populations are most at risk. Requests to participate in the web-based survey were sent to all providers on the National Runaway Switchboard and CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers resource lists, as well as partner agencies of the True Colors Fund.

Click HERE to read the report.