Today, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago released a new report on youth homelessness, Missed Opportunities: National Estimates, which found that LGBTQ young adults had a 120 percent higher risk of reporting homelessness compared to youth who identified as heterosexual and cisgender. The report also found that one in 30 youth ages 13-17 experienced a form of homelessness over a 12-month period and one in 10 young adults ages 18-25 experienced a form of homelessness over a 12-month period.
These findings are consistent with other research that also shows that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented among the homeless. Estimates show that LGBTQ youth comprise up to 40 percent of the total unaccompanied homeless youth population, even though they make up five to 10 percent of the overall youth population. Earlier this year, HRC Youth Ambassador Justin Jones discussed his experience as a homeless LGBTQ youth with HRC.
LGBTQ youth aren’t the only population that disproportionately experience homelessness, according to the data released today. Other young adult populations experiencing disproportionate rates of homelessness include Black and African American youth, Hispanic non-white youth, unmarried parenting youth, youth with less than a high school diploma or GED certificate and youth reporting annual household income of less than $24,000.
The consequences of homelessness, particularly for LGBTQ youth, are far reaching and can last a lifetime. Homelessness is harmful to mental and physical health, and youth who are homeless are at an increased risk for sexual abuse and exploitation, chemical and alcohol dependency, social stigma and discrimination. These youth also experience lower levels of long-term educational attainment—placing them at an even greater disadvantage when they enter the job market. Growing up without the critical family and social safety nets so many young people rely on results in catastrophic consequences for economic stability, educational attainment and life expectancy.
Little support exists at the federal level to provide funding for programs that improve family relationships and reduce homelessness among LGBTQ youth. As a result, homeless youth, particularly LGBTQ youth, continue to face severe obstacles in their emotional and professional development.
That is why HRC endorsed the bipartisan Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (RHYTPA), which would reauthorize essential Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs, including prevention, emergency shelters, street outreach, transitional living and assistance in rural areas. Notably, RHYTPA includes much needed updates to the current Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs, including an explicit non-discrimination provision that would prohibit any provider of these services from discriminating against youth based on their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.