National Recommended Best Practices for Serving LGBT Homeless Youth

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Solutions Brief | April 10, 2009

Files: PDF | 619 KB | 20 pages

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth are overrepresented in the homeless population. Research indicates that each year, hundreds of thousands of LGBT youth will experience homelessness. LGBT youth are not only overrepresented in homeless youth populations, but reports indicate that while living on the streets, LGBT youth are at great risk of physical and sexual exploitation. Unfortunately, many LGBT homeless youth resort to trading sex to meet their basic needs. Further, just trying to survive in street environments or with transitory and unstable housing can increase mental health problems and disabilities.

Without access to the residential stability, nurturance, and opportunities for positive youth development provided by homeless youth service providers, LGBT homeless youth are susceptible to further challenges as adults and continued violence and exploitation on the streets, and are at great risk of entering the juvenile or criminal justice system.

Whether offering shelter, housing, drop-in services, case management services, or street outreach, it is important that inclusive and culturally competent services are offered to enable LGBT homeless youth to stabilize their lives. While the outcomes for LGBT homeless youth— when they lack appropriate support and guidance—can be unsettling, LGBT youth can thrive and succeed if given the opportunity. Despite the stigma and violence that many LGBT youth experience, these youth often demonstrate remarkable courage and resilience. The recommendations contained in this guide provide direction to agencies and nonprofit organizations to increase their competency in working with LGBT youth.

Improving Practices: Recommendations for Employees Serving LGBT Homeless Youth

  • Treat LGBT Youth Respectfully and Ensure Their Safety
  • Appropriately Address LGBT Identity during Intake Process
  • Support Access to Education, Medical Care, and Mental Health Care
  • Support Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Youth Participants
  • Inform LGBT Youth Participants about Local LGBT Programs and Services

Improving Organizational Culture: Recommendations for Administrators and Supervisors

  • Programmatic Culture: Creating a Safe and Inclusive Environment.
  • Adopt and Implement Written Nondiscrimination Policies
  • Adopt Confidentiality Policies
  • Provide LGBT Competency Training to All Agency Employees and Volunteers
  • Establish Sound Recruitment and Hiring Practices
  • Develop Agency Connections to LGBT Organizations and the LGBT Community
  • Collect and Evaluate Data

Improving Residential Services: Recommendations for Administrators and Youth Workers

  • Keep LGBT Youth Safe in Shelters and Other Residential Services