November is National Homeless Youth Awareness month. According to The Covenant House, there are over 2 million homeless youth in the United States of America alone. Studies show that young people are especially at risk for homelessness, as 40 percent of our country’s homeless population are under 18 years old. The LGBT community is even more at risk of becoming homeless than any other demographic. According to The University of Chicago, there is up to 120 percent greater risk of being homeless for queer people. Transgender people are often discriminated when trying to found housing and will be turned away, leaving them homeless. Studies by The National Center for Transgender Equality report one in five trans folk will be denied. People of color, such as black people or hispanic people, also face a higher risk of homelessness. Surprisingly, the risk of homelessness between rural and urban areas are the same.
Homelessness can come in several different forms. For some being homeless is living on the streets and for others it is couch surfing at their friends’ houses. There are several reasons for youth homelessness, from not being able to afford and support living on their own, to abuse from their caretakers, to living in unsafe foster homes. Another reason, often for queer people, is coming out to their families only to be kicked out or live in an extremely abusive and toxic environment.
A person, let alone a child, faces homelessness deals with many dangers. The focus now is survival — how can I get through the day? How can I eat today? Where will I sleep tonight? — rather than spending energy on improvement, goals, relationships and leisure. Homelessness also puts people in greater danger of sex trafficking, food insecurity and a lack of healthcare for physical and mental wellness. Furthermore, when LGBT people are seeking shelters, they are often forced to stay in ones that do not accommodate their community’s needs.
There is a shocking number of homeless, queer youth in the United States. This is a very serious issue often overlooked, but there are ways to help the homeless queer of America. The most basic and essential way is to understand and accept the LGBT community. Stop tolerating hate and ignorance, create safe spaces for queer people, and stand up for them and their rights. Another great option is to donate to local shelters near you. This can be anything from food to clothing to money. A few great LGBT-inclusive shelters to check out are The Covenant House, The Ali Forney Center and Columbus based Kaleidoscope. Finally, a more hands-on approach to helping is to donate your time and physical energy volunteering at these shelters.
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Destiniee Jaram is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University and is the Query a Queer writer for Ohio University’s LGBT Center.