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Hidden in plain sight: Homelessness among lesbian and gay youth

Sleeping on street
Published: November 2001

Aim

We set out to investigate the causes and nature of homelessness for young lesbians and gay men and to consider broader policy and service strategies for tackling the issue.

Findings

Causes

We found that the role sexuality can play in the creation of youth homelessness is complex.  It was felt and experienced as a factor in causing homelessness when :

  • a young person’s expected to be mistreated because of their sexuality
  • they actually experienced prejudice or violence because of their sexuality
  • they experienced significant emotional and psychological difficulties in coming to terms with their own sexuality.

However, a key finding was that in many cases homelessness was completely unrelated to the young person’s sexuality.  Rather, homelessness came about as a result of a wide variety of well established for young people in general, such as family breakdown, experience of physical or sexual abuse, or drug and alcohol dependency.

Recommendations

The report suggests a number of improvements to services for homeless lesbian and gay youth, such as:

  • creating inclusive housing and homelessness services
  • developing specialist services for young lesbians and gay men
  • improving the quality of emergency and longer-term accommodation
  • recognising the diverse and multiple needs of homeless lesbian and gay youth
  • adopting a holistic multi-agency approach to meet need
  • increasing emphasis on prevention of homelessness among young lesbians and gay men

Methodology

Qualitative methods were used to collect data within four urban areas. Interviews and group discussions were carried out with housing crisis service providers and gay and lesbian community groups, as well as indepth biographical interviews with lesbians and gay men between 16 and 24 years old with varied experiences of homelessness.

Read the report