Photograph by: Christina House / For the Times
Every child deserves a supportive and loving home. But for many queer children and youth, that home is not available. These youth are disproportionately represented among homeless youth in the United States, experiencing extreme rates of violence, discrimination, and poor health while homeless.
1.6 million to 2.8 million: The estimated number of homeless youth in the United States.
320,000 to 400,000: A conservative estimate of the number of gay and transgender youth facing homelessness each year.
The average age of LGBTQ homeless youth? 14.4 for non-heterosexual youth and 13.5 for transgender and gender non-conforming youth.
There are currently no federal programs specifically designed to meet the needs of LGBTQ homeless youth - there are no federal protections and few state laws in place to keep these youth from being discriminated against while accessing federally funded homeless services.
What’s worse is that federal grant awards for homeless youth services are being awarded to providers without mandating that they not discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity. While there are federal protections for LGBTQ individuals when it comes to housing discrimination, this is extremely hard to enforce when dealing with homeless shelters. This leaves youth open to harassment from staff, other residents and allows shelters to turn individuals away based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
In lieu of enforceable federal protections, there are organizations that are dedicated to providing shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth and young adults (18-30)! Some of these organizations have the resources available to offer emergency housing services and transitional living programs - others are simply postings stating “I have a couch you could sleep on for a week.”
You don’t have to have lots of time and money to help out homeless LGBTQ people - just a couch! Or some old clothing. Or a $10 gift card to Kroger. Below are some (primarily local) organizations that are focused on helping those in need - check them out and see if you can offer a helping hand to others!
The Ruth Ellis Center, based out of Detroit, provides residential and drop-in programs for LGBTQ youth. They offer two programs through Ruth’s House: a Semi-independent Living Program is a more structured program with level systems for 12 to 17 year old LGBTQ youth, and a Transitional Living Program which is an up to 18-month independent living residential program for 16-21 year old LGBTQ youth. They’re always looking for donations and volunteers!
The Ozone House, based out of Ypsilanti, has a drop-in center, a Safe Stay program, and the Miller House. The Safe Stay program is available for youth ages 10-17 who need a safe place to stay or a break from conflict at home. Youth stay at Safe Stay for 2-3 weeks and participate in therapy, life skills workshops, educational support, and other recreational activities. The Miller House is available to youth ages 17-20 who do not have a stable or safe home for up to 18 months. To become a resident, youth must attend school and/or be employed, and participate in: case management, life skills training, counseling, and will paying “rent” each month that goes into a savings account that will be turned over to them at the end of their stay.
Unable to volunteer your time but have a couch you’re willing to lend out?
The Transgender Housing Network is a temporary housing network intended to connect trans people in need with safe and supportive places to crash. If you have or are in need of a couch, floor, or spare room, you can submit a postwith any relevant information you’re willing to share and we’ll try and connect you with other couch lenders or surfers near you. This blog is intended to be a safe space in and of itself, as well as connect trans people to physically safe spaces if and when they need them.
Open Homes is a similar resource available for cisgender queer identified folks to find a safe place to stay when they’re struggling with homelessness.