Last month a light was shone on the number of young people experiencing homelessness through Youth Homelessness Matters Day. Each night in Australia, approximately 26,000 12-25 year olds don’t have a safe and secure place to sleep. A disproportionate number of these are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI).
The small number of studies into LGBTI people experiencing homelessness have shown that they are overrepresented in the homeless population. In April, beyondblue launched a campaign to challenge discriminatory views which are causing psychological distress among LGBTI people. The research found that 21% of young people surveyed agreed it was hard to treat LGBTI people the same way as everyone else.
A person’s gender and/or sexuality, linking with family dynamics and conflict, creates a volatile environment, especially when combined with underlying negative attitudes and lack of understanding towards LGBTI people. This can lead a young person to leave home (whether forced or voluntarily). Without appropriate supports these young people can remain homeless for lengthy periods of time.
“Every person who accesses a specialist homelessness service should be receiving tailored and personalised support. Homelessness services do essential work for those in need”, CEO of Homelessness Australia, Glenda Stevens said.
“Unless we can change community attitudes towards LGBTI people they will remain at higher risk of homelessness and abuse. These community attitudes can impact on a young person’s whole life including education, employment, mental health, relationships and their exposure to physical violence.”
There are many barriers to exiting homelessness, the main one being the lack of affordable housing. But for young people these barriers can be exacerbated by their (generally) lower wages and lack of housing/rental history. Added discrimination based on gender and sexuality can further inhibit this access.