LGBTIQQ Youth at Significant Risk of Homelessness

LGBTIQQ Youth at Significant Risk of Homelessness

by Ariadne Wolf


Milagro is proud to present the world premiere of Swimming While Drowning by Emilio Rodriguez. The show is in its final week with only three performances left and has been receiving high praise from audiences each night. It’s a timely piece about LGBTIQQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, and Questioning) youth and homelessness. The play not only explores the reality of their situation, it also shows how art can help cope with tough situations. Ariadne Wolf researched the unique situation that effects LGBTIQQ youth as it relates to homelessness.

Swimming While Drowning by Emilio Rodriguez


Homeless youth are disproportionately LGBTIQQ. This acronym identifies those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, or questioning. These teenagers often cannot count on receiving effective support from their families. Sometimes, their parents reject them or kick them out. Just as often, these teens face a domestic atmosphere that is harshly critical of what some parents view as “antisocial behavior” that their children have “chosen” to participate in. A recent Huffington Post article entitled “Christianity and the Parental Rejection of LGBT Youth,” written by Carl Sicillano of the Ali Forney Center, linked the conservative Christian battles against equal rights and recognition for LGBT partnerships with severe risk factors that LGBT teens experience. The Ali Forney Center is just one of many such organizations nationwide which attempt to fill the gaps in resources that specifically LGBT homeless teens need, and often do not find from federal or state-funded programs. In the Huffington Post article, Sicillano recounts stories of parents forcing exorcisms upon their children, abandoning them in the middle of nowhere, or beating them upon learning of their LGBT identity, passed on to Sicillano via word of mouth from the teens that his center treats. Statistics support Sicillano’s assertion that LGBT teens face a host of challenges which render them uniquely vulnerable to experiencing homelessness at a young age.


LGBTIQQ Youth Homelessness Facts

  • 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT, or gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender [2012 Williams Institute Study]
  • Contributing Factors: social stigma, discrimination, rejection from their families [National Coalition for the Homeless]
  • Greater risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation [National Coalition for the Homeless] Photo© Andreas Ekman MILAGRO Swimming While Drowning—Study Guide 4
  • Difficulty finding shelters that will accept them, especially if they are transgender [National Coalition for the Homeless]
  • Increased vulnerability to alcoholism and drug abuse
  • Vulnerability to factors often associated with low self-esteem and/or financial need, including prostitution or other sexual exploitation
  • LGBT homeless youth needs, self-identified: housing, emotional support, employment, health care, and education, in this order [True Colors Fund]
  • Top factor homeless LGBT youth cite as the reason they are homeless: a feeling of family rejection and generalized lack of support and sense of emotional abandonment due to sexual orientation or gender identification [2012 Williams Institute Study]
  • Second major contributing factor LGBT youth cite as the reason they are homeless: parents kicking them out after they come out [2012 Williams Institute Study]
  • LGBT students are twice as likely to drop out or choose not to pursue a college education [National Coalition for the Homeless]
  • 86% of LGBT students reported verbal harassment at school due to their sexual orientation in 2007 [National Coalition for the Homeless]
  • 44% of LGBT students reported physical harassment at school due to their sexual orientation in 2007 [National Coalition for the Homeless]
  • 22% of LGBT students reported being physically attacked at school due to their sexual orientation in 2007; of these students, 60% did not report the incident because they feared no one would care [National Coalition for the Homeless
  • 31% of LGBT students who report incidents of harassment to school staff receive zero response [National Coalition for the Homeless]
  • Homeless youth face widespread discrimination when seeking housing through federally funded institutions [National Coalition for the Homeless]
  • No federal programs are designed to meet the needs of homeless LGBT youth specifically, nor are there specific protections for LGBT youth who seek services offered to the homeless [National Coalition for the Homeless]


Further Reading/Resources

Christianity and the Parental Rejection of LGBT Youth

LGBT Homelessness 

True Colors Fund 

40% of Homeless Youth Are LGBT Kids 

Coming Out Through Art: A Review of Art Therapy With LGBT Clients 

National Center for Transgender Equality 

Workplace Guide for Transgender Individuals

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