LGBT Youth Homelessness
November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. Youth who are experiencing homelessness face unique challenges and opportunities along their education path. During this month, we will feature local community partners who are working to support youth experiencing homelessness, offering information to deepen understanding about youth homelessness and identifying ways we can all support these students.
About a year ago, a youth who had been attending IYG for a while, came into my office and told me he had nowhere to sleep that night. He had been staying with friends or in shelters for a couple of weeks because he was kicked out of his house after coming out to his parents. We talked through his options and resources available to him. We called the organization that serves homeless youth and they couldn’t get him into their program for another week, at least. This youth happened to be over the age of 18, so other shelters that could take him that night were a possibility. I offered to take him to one that had availability for that night and he told me that he did not want to go there. I inquired as to why this was and he said that he had been there, was verbally harassed, reported the incident, and then told by staff that he should stop being so “flamboyant” and he wouldn’t be treated that way. He felt uncomfortable returning for fear of his physical safety. We then proceeded to have the very bleak discussion of which was safer for him: to return to this shelter or sleep on the street.
Ten percent of youth are homeless; forty percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. Regardless of the shift in culture we are seeing in society, family rejection of LGBTQ youth remains prevalent. Many of the conversations I have with youth I work with aren’t around if they are going to be kicked out of their house, but when they are going to be kicked out of their house. For some youth, it isn’t a matter of being kicked out but having to decide for themselves if remaining in a hostile and abusive environment is something they can sustain. All of this considered, it is no wonder why LGBTQ youth are disproportionately found in the child welfare system, the juvenile justice system, experiencing homelessness, and have disproportionately high suicide rates. These youth need us. All of us.
More education is needed across the board. Not only do parents and families need education in how to best support their youth, but educators, social workers and service providers, healthcare providers need this education as well. In order for LGBTQ youth to feel safe, we need to be intentional about creating spaces that allow for them to feel safe. That means we need to see these youth. We need to validate these youth, and all of their identities. And we need to empower these youth to defy statistics and be the amazing humans they already are.
IYG offers youth, families, and professionals the spaces to have these difficult conversations and to receive this pivotal education. Because these youth need us. All of us.
Myranda Warden is the program manager for Indiana Youth Group (IYG), a social service center that serves LGBTQ+ youth ages 12-20 in Central Indiana. As program manager, Myranda oversees all operations of the activity center, IYG’s support and educational programs for youth, the suicide prevention programs and initiatives, as well as the parent and family support program. She received both undergraduate degrees and a Master’s in Social Work from IUPUI.