At Housing Up, we know that homelessness is an LGBTQ+ issue. In Washington, DC, over 40% of unhoused youth identify as LGBTQ+. Our mission is to build thriving communities in Washington, DC by developing affordable housing and offering comprehensive support services to homeless and low-income families. We believe that people who have safe, affordable housing and genuine opportunities are empowered to transform their lives, and we understand that homelessness disproportionately affects LGBTQ+ people.
People in the LGBTQ+ community endure heightened levels of discrimination and violence, increasing the likelihood of unemployment and poverty. Barriers to employment and to vital social services and resources make LGBTQ+ individuals exponentially more vulnerable to homelessness and housing insecurity. Research published by the Journal of Adolescent Health indicates that individuals within the LGBTQ+ community have a 120% higher risk of experiencing homelessness. Additionally, illustrating the harmful combination of LGBTQ+ discrimination and racism, LGBTQ+ BIPOC youth endure disproportionately high rates of homelessness. BIPOC youth have a 83% higher risk of experiencing homelessness, and this risk is even higher for BIPOC youth who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Homelessness has devastating impacts on LGBTQ+ youth’s mental health. According to the Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, LGBTQ+ youth who reported homelessness or housing instability were two to four times more likely, when compared to those who did not report housing instability, to report depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts or actions.
Reasons for disproportionately high youth homelessness within the LGBTQ+ community are vast, including rejection and conflict with families, increased vulnerability to interpersonal violence, and a lack of access to support systems, such as shelters. Research also demonstrates there are numerous barriers to exiting homelessness for youth, largely because homelessness response systems are often designed for adults.
LGBTQ+ individuals utilizing housing resources have experienced violence and harm related to their identity while in these spaces. Due to discrimination and violence within homelessness support systems LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness are more likely to be on the street, making them increasingly vulnerable to harm and exploitation. Issues of discrimination and oppression cannot be separated from fair housing advocacy work. It is important for organizations who provide support for unhoused individuals to commit to actively working to create and maintain safe and inclusive spaces.
In the DC area, there are many resources for LGBTQ+ youth who are experiencing homelessness, including Friendship Place and SMYAL. Friendship Place is a D.C. based organization providing housing for those experiencing and those at risk of experiencing homelessness. Friendship Place emphasizes support for LGBTQ+ individuals and works to establish safe spaces and support for LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness. Every month via Zoom, Friendship Place hosts meetings for their LGBTQ+ workshop. If you would like to attend these meetings, email [email protected], or check out their website to learn more about their services.