Other Youth Topics


On any given night in 2023, there were approximately 34,700 people under 25 who experienced homelessness as an unaccompanied minor.1 Current studies, as well as anecdotal evidence from social service professionals, suggest that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, or intersex (LGBTQI+) youth are significantly overrepresented in homeless populations,2 with a recent study finding that LGBTQI+ young adults experience homelessness at more than twice the rate of their peers.3 In addition to being at greater risk for experiencing homelessness, LGBTQI+ young people represent up to 40 percent of the youth homeless population4 related to factors such as family rejection and abuse, as well as discrimination. According to a survey of homeless service providers serving LGBTQI+ young people, 68 percent of the homeless youth served had a history of family rejection, 65 percent had a history of mental health issues (such as depression or anxiety), and 54 percent had a history of family abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual). LGBTQ youth experience many similar issues leading to homelessness; however, estimates suggest issues are exaggerated for transgender youth.5

At home, in shelters, searching for housing, and on the streets, these youth may endure traumatic experiences, such as harassment, stigmatization, or abuse from family, peers, and shelter staff as a result of their sexual orientation and/or gender nonconformity.6 Youth may have difficulty finding housing and may be asked to leave shelters after revealing their sexual or transgender identity. As a result of harassment and negative experiences in their homes and shelters, LGBTQI+ youth are more likely to live on the streets than their heterosexual peers and are especially vulnerable to physical and sexual exploitation.7 LGBTQI+ youth who experience homelessness also experience higher rates of trauma and adversity, including high rates of conduct disorder, posttraumatic stress, and suicidal behavior, with approximately 60 percent likely to attempt suicide.8

To address these challenges, LGBTQI+ youth who are affected by homelessness or are in out-of-home care need protection from harassment, access to culturally appropriate support, and equal treatment and supportive services.9 It is important for shelters, transitional housing, and permanent housing to promote positive youth development, provide trauma-informed services and safe spaces for LGBTQI+ youth, offer family reconciliation services (when appropriate), and connect youth to community resources and services.10 Responses to youth homelessness are typically crisis oriented. A comprehensive approach can better prevent youth homelessness, such as using prevention services (e.g., providing equitable and culturally appropriate health and mental health services) and diversion strategies (e.g., quickly helping homeless or youth at-risk to “choice driven” crisis housing and tailored services that will lead to permanent housing).11

View the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity topic to learn more about LGBTQI+ youth. 


Learning From the Field: Expert Panel on Youth Who Are LGBTQI2-S and Experiencing Homeless (Summary of Proceedings) (PDF, 45 pages) 
This document highlights key issues, strategies, best practices, and next steps for collaboration between the Homelessness Resource Center and other stakeholders to address lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, or two- spirit (LGBTQI2-S) youth who are experiencing homelessness. 

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness 
This website includes information and resources on homelessness in the United States, including a section focused on LGBTQ youth. 

Runaway and Homeless Youth Training, Technical Assistance, and Capacity Building Center  
This center offers an assortment of publications and resources to help family and youth workers better understand the needs of LGBTQI+ young people and how they can go about making their programs more LGBTQI+ friendly.  

Voices of Youth: LGBTQ Young Adults Experience Homelessness at More than Twice the Rate of Peers 
This issue brief discusses recent findings on homelessness rates among LGBT young adults in comparison with their peers, including easy to read infographics. 

Emerging Practices for Supporting LGBTQI+ Young People Across Human Services Programs 
This project highlights promising and emerging practices that human services agencies, programs, staff, and leaders are using to make human service delivery and prevention more welcoming and accessible for LGBTQI+ young people (ages 10–24) in child welfare and juvenile justice systems, as well as those experiencing homelessness and those seeking sexual health services.  

Homeless and Housing Resource Center (HHRC): Providing Affirming Services to LGBTQ+ Youth Experiencing Homelessness (Webinar) 
For providers working in housing and homelessness, knowing about the unique experiences of LGBTQ+ youth is essential in providing quality and appropriate care. This panel discussed the needs of the population, and ways providers and clinicians can provide supportive and affirming care. 

The HHRC includes resources focused on youth as well as on LGBTQI2-S youth. Intersex is defined as individuals with medically defined biological attributes that are not exclusively male or female. These youth are frequently “assigned” a gender at birth, which may differ from their gender identity later in life. Two-spirit is a culture-specific general identity for Native Americans (American Indians and Alaska Natives) with homosexual or transgender identities.12

Center of Excellence for LGBTQ+ Behavioral Health Equity  
Supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), The Center for Excellence provides behavioral health practitioners with vital information on supporting the population of people identifying as LGBTQI2-S, along with other diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions. Through training, coaching, and technical assistance, the center is implementing change strategies within mental health and substance use disorder treatment systems to address disparities effecting LGBTQ+ people across all stages of life. 

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)/Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR): Assisting LGBTQ+ SSI/SSDI Applicants 
The SAMHSA SOAR TA Center has a resource that provides answers to frequently asked questions about working with LGBTQI2-S, along with applicants of other diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions (LGBTQ+), during the SSI/SSDI application process. Learn more about using respectful language, engaging in productive and meaningful ways, and preparing Social Security Administration forms and the SOAR Medical Summary Report with special care and attention to details related to LGBTQ+ matters. 


Other Resources on this Topic


Youth Briefs

How Individualized Education Program (IEP) Transition Planning Makes a Difference for Youth with Disabilities

Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.

Youth Transitioning to Adulthood: How Holding Early Leadership Positions Can Make a Difference

Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people

How Trained Service Professionals and Self-Advocacy Makes a Difference for Youth with Mental Health, Substance Abuse, or Co-occurring Issues

Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.

Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care: Challenges and Solutions

Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.

Coordinating Systems to Support Transition Age Youth with Mental Health Needs

Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.

Civic Engagement Strategies for Transition Age Youth

Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).

Latest Resources