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.
On any given night in 2020 there were approximately 34,000 people under the age of 25 who experienced homelessness as an unaccompanied minor.1 LGBTQ+ youth are at greater risk for experiencing homelessness and represent up to 40 percent of the youth homeless population due to factors like family rejection and abuse, and discrimination. Although studies on the percentage of homeless youth who are LGBTQ+ vary, analyses suggest that approximately 20 to 40 percent of these youth identify as a sexual or gender minority. Current studies, as well as anecdotal evidence from social service professionals, suggest that LGBTQ+ youth are significantly overrepresented in homeless populations, with a recent study finding that LGBTQ+ young adults experience homelessness at more than twice the rate of their peers.2
In shelters, searching for housing, and on the streets, these youth may endure traumatic experiences, such as harassment, stigmatization, or abuse from peers and shelter staff as a result of their sexual orientation and/or gender non-conformity.3 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 shelters, LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to live on the streets than their heterosexual peers and are especially vulnerable to physical and sexual exploitation.4 LGBTQ+ youth who experience homelessness also experience high rates of conduct disorder, post-traumatic stress, and suicidal behavior with approximately 60 percent being likely to attempt suicide.5
To address these challenges, LGBTQ+ youth who are affected by homeless or in out-of-home care need protection from harassment, access to culturally appropriate support, and equal treatment and supportive services.6 It is important for shelters, transitional housing, and permanent housing to promote positive youth development, provide safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth, offer family reconciliation services, and connect youth to community resources and services.7 Responses to youth homelessness are typically crisis-oriented. A comprehensive approach is necessary to 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).8
View the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity youth topic to learn more about LGBTQ+ youth.
Homelessness Resource Center: Homeless Populations
The Homelessness Resource Center (HRC) is an interactive community of providers, consumers, policymakers, researchers, and public agencies at federal, state, and local levels. It shares state-of-the-art knowledge and promising practices to prevent and end homelessness through the following:
- Training and technical assistance
- Publications and materials
- Online learning opportunities
- Networking and collaboration
The HRC includes resources focused on youth as well as on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, or two- spirit (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.9
Learning from the Field: Expert Panel on Youth Who Are LGBTQI2-S and 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 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 LGBT youth.
Voices of Youth: LGBT 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.
1 Henry, de Sousa, Roddey, Gaven & Bednar, 2011
2 The Trevor Project, 2021; Choi, Wilson, Shelton, & Gates, 2015; Morton, Dworsky, Patel, & Samuels, 2018
3 National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2021
4 Lambda Legal, National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Network for Youth, & National Center for Lesbian Rights, 2009; Morton et al., 2018
5 Morton et al., 2018; The Trevor Project, 2021
6 Matarese, 2012
7 Homeless Resource Center, 2010
8 Morton & Horwitz, 2019
9 Poirier et al., 2008
Other Resources on this Topic