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The Risks of LGBT+ Homelessness
There are approximately nine million LGBT people in the United States, and 40% of the homeless youth are LGBT. The LGBT homeless population experience greater rates of sexual assault, victimization and mental illness, and for specifically trans people, the statistics can get a lot worse. In a lot of places in the United States, trans people are required to to room with people of their assigned birth gender, meaning that trans women are required to room with men which often greatly increases their risk of experiencing verbal, physical and sexual assault.
A study by Lambda Legal done on the risks that LGBT youth faced showed that they had significantly high rates of suicide attempts, experiencing bullying at school (and dropping out of school due to said bullying), as well as experiencing violence and harassment from family members due to their orientation, all these issues increase their chances of becoming homeless.
A lot of LGBT people are forced to live in really dangerous situations when homeless since they don’t feel comfortable going to shelters. A majority of the time LGBT people’s orientations are not respected in shelters (over 55% of transgender adults have been harassed by shelter staff) and those who do end up going to shelters as a last resort are turned away due to the shelter not knowing how to handle their needs. In several parts of the US there is not much education going around on how to make homeless shelters LGBT friendly, and there is very little training in shelters on how to handle the needs of LGBT homeless people.
In other parts of the world, being LGBT and homeless can be a death sentence. In countries where it is illegal to be LGBT, going to a shelter can often get you reported to the police, not to mention there is close to no protection or rights for an LGBT homeless person if they were raped or sexually assaulted, since in some countries, women and LGBT people who report their rape are often arrested on the spot and charged with prostitution.
Because of job discrimination, high susceptibility to mental illnesses and high rates of poverty in the LGBT community, the risk of homelessness for LGBT people is a very real and severe risk. The most important place to start with changing this is education, shelters need to be educated on how to provide safe housing for LGBT people, and the general population needs to be educated on LGBT issues to prevent the reasons that cause LGBT homelessness in the first place such as job discrimination and harassment that leads to mental illness.
For a lot of LGBT people, homelessness is something they will inevitably experience, and the rate of homelessness is not going to drop to 0% overnight, so the least that can happen is to ensure that all homeless people are equally treated with respect, dignity and provided with a safe space.