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New Report Shows Homelessness, Housing Instability Linked to Increased Suicide Risk Among LGBTQ Youth

BY: Josh Weaver
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28% of LGBTQ youth reported experiencing homelessness or housing instability at some point in their lives — and those who did had 3.5x the rate of attempting suicide.

February 3,  2022 – The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people, published a new report today that examines the experiences of nearly 10,000 LGBTQ youth across the United States who have experienced homelessness or unstable housing. The report found that LGBTQ youth who experienced homelessness or housing instability had higher rates of mental health challenges – including depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts – compared to their LGBTQ peers with stable housing. The report also provides a series of recommendations on how to prevent LGBTQ youth homelessness and improve current policies, programs, and practices to better serve LGBTQ youth.

Key Findings:

  • 28% of LGBTQ youth reported experiencing homelessness or housing instability at some point in their lives, including nearly half of Native/Indigenous LGBTQ youth and 37 % of transgender and nonbinary youth. 
  • LGBTQ youth who reported housing instability or homelessness had two to four times the odds of reporting depression, anxiety, self-harm, considering suicide, and attempting suicide compared to those who did not report any housing instability. 
  • LGBTQ youth who reported experiencing homelessness or housing instability also had higher rates of victimization, being in foster care, and food insecurity.

“LGBTQ youth are overrepresented among young people experiencing homelessness and this report makes clear that we desperately need more resources to confront the overlapping crises of housing instability and suicide,” said Jonah DeChants (he/him pronouns), Research Scientist at The Trevor Project. “We all have a role to play in fostering acceptance of LGBTQ youth, which on a basic level, will help address driving factors for LGBTQ youth homelessness, such as anti-LGBTQ discrimination, victimization, and family rejection. As LGBTQ youth are also impacted by their families’ and communities’ economic stability, effective anti-poverty economic policies need to be implemented to increase LGBTQ youths’ access to safe and secure housing.”

The new report emphasizes how tackling root causes will help prevent LGBTQ youth homelessness. For one, strong anti-discrimination policies in the workplace and strong anti-bullying and harassment policies in schools can be effective in helping LGBTQ youth stay connected to school and employment, increasing their skills and future earnings, and making it easier for them to maintain stable housing. Additionally, since family conflict around youths’ LGBTQ identities is a driving factor in LGBTQ youth homelessness, developing family counseling or mediation programs may be effective at decreasing conflict and keeping LGBTQ youth in their homes and connected to their families. Further, special attention should be paid to improving case management and exit planning for youth exiting foster care. 

It also must be underscored that this crisis is driven by poverty and a lack of LGBTQ-inclusive services and data. The report calls on policymakers to increase funding for safe, low-barrier housing programs and to ensure that all shelter and housing facilities provide culturally competent services to LGBTQ youth. And like most risk factors for LGBTQ youth suicide, better data is needed to understand the full scope and impact of LGBTQ youth homelessness in the United States. Questions about both LGBTQ identity and housing status should be added to population surveys of youth and young adults, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). 

Methodology

Data were collected from an online survey platform between October and December 2020. LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 were recruited via targeted ads on social media. The final analytical sample included 34,759 LGBTQ youth from across the United States. Respondents who reported that they were currently homeless or currently living in a shelter, car, campground, or other transitional or temporary housing were grouped as Currently Homeless (n = 219). Respondents who reported that they had either been homeless in the past, had run away, or had been kicked out or been abandoned at any point were grouped as Past Housing Instability (n = 9,666). And finally, respondents who reported none of these experiences were grouped as Neither Past Nor Current Housing Instability (n = 24,874). 

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

About The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people. The Trevor Project offers a suite of 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention programs, including TrevorLifeline, TrevorText, and TrevorChat as well as the world’s largest safe space social networking site for LGBTQ youth, TrevorSpace. Trevor also operates an education program with resources for youth-serving adults and organizations, an advocacy department fighting for pro-LGBTQ legislation and against anti-LGBTQ rhetoric/policy positions, and a research team to discover the most effective means to help young LGBTQ people in crisis and end suicide.

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