Finding a Home for Us All
Wherever you’re based, you’ve probably noticed that we’re experiencing a serious homelessness crisis in the US. At the beginning of 2020, over 580,000 people were experiencing homelessness in America, a figure that has barely budged since 2007. To make matters worse, homelessness rates are thought to have risen considerably since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic due to related issues such as job losses and domestic violence. We pretty much all know someone whose finances and stability took a hit in 2020.
If you’re saddened and frustrated by the number of people out on the streets, you’re probably wondering how you can make a difference and tackle homelessness in your community. But where should you start? Although homelessness can affect anyone, rates are much higher among already-marginalized groups. LGBTQ+ groupsare particularly badly affected by homelessness, so we’re going to zoom in on how you can mobilize to support these vulnerable populations. As we’re sure you’ll agree, everyone deserves safety, safety, shelter, and a place to call home, regardless of how they identify.
Why the focus on LGBTQ+ homelessness?
Put simply, rates of homelessness among LGBTQ+ individuals are much higher than rates within the general population. Let’s take a look at some of the facts and figures. According to a recent study by the Williams Institute, a shocking 8% of transgender adults experienced homelessness in 2019-20. Meanwhile, around 3% of cisgender and gender queer sexual minorities and 6% of African American sexual minorities experienced homelessness in the same year. A heartbreaking 20% of sexual minority individuals experienced homelessness before the age of 18 – not least due to familial rejection and stigma.
As you can see, factors like race, gender, and socioeconomic background significantly impact a person’s chances of experiencing homelessness. So, adopting an intersectional approach to social justice is vital for people just like you – people committed to securing the security and dignity of their fellow citizens.
If we want to live in a fairer and more just society, addressing problems like LGBTQ+ homelessness should be at the top of everyone’s agenda. If you’re lucky enough to have access to safe and affordable housing, it’s worth considering how you can advocate for folks who are less fortunate. Creating a fairer world is in the best interests of everyone and will ensure a brighter future for younger generations!
Why are homelessness rates higher among LGBTQ+ individuals?
This is a complicated question to answer, as lots of factors can influence a person’s ability to find and maintain a stable home. For example, racialized LGBTQ+ individuals from deprived areas are much more likely to experience homelessness than white LGBTQ+ people living in middle-class neighborhoods. Similarly, transgender people are more likely to experience housing discrimination and abuse than cisgender people.
So, it’s important that we view the problem from a variety of angles. As you might be aware, on the most common reasons behind LGBTQ+ homeless is familial rejection and broken relationships. Sadly, some parents and family members reject young queer people due to homophobia and other forms of bigotry, resulting in the withdrawal of material support. Some young LGBTQ+ people find themselves out on the street at a very young age, something which can harm their ability to participate in education and integrate with the rest of society. In the long term, family rejection can significantly affect a person’s life chances and lead to long-term issues with housing instability.
Another problem that might surprise you is discrimination by housing providers. According to a study published by the Urban Institute, housing providers are less likely to schedule appointments with gay men. What’s more, agents quoted gay men yearly costs almost $300 higher compared to those offered to heterosexual men. Naturally, this kind of discrimination could affect someone’s ability to maintain secure housing.
Another surprising phenomenon is discrimination by homelessness services, some of which are staffed by people with underlying prejudices. Finally, the mental health effects caused by social stigma means LGBTQ+ adults are over twice as likely to use illicit drugs than straight cisgender people, and almost twice as likely to develop substance abuse problems. Addiction and homelessness are tightly intertwined problems, with both likely to worsen the effects of the other in a vicious cycle.
So, why is it so important that we lower LGBTQ+ homelessness rates?
Beyond the obvious fact that everyone is worthy of safety and dignity, homelessness can affect an LGBTQ+ person’s life chances. For example, homelessness is associated with higher incarceration rates among LGBTQ+ people. In the long term, this can affect their ability to secure fulfilling jobs and housing, creating a cycle of incarceration and destitution. The same can be said for substance abuse problems and mental health issues, creating a host of harmful factors that reinforce each other and detrimentally affect a person’s quality of life.
If you’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a safe and secure family, this information can be difficult to process. But something can be done! Finding safe housing for LGBTQ+ people represent an important step in breaking cycles of poverty and addressing some of the inequalities that plague society in the twenty-first century. As a country, we have the wealth and resources to eradicate homelessness entirely. We just need to find the political will and push back to advocate for marginalized individuals – a new world is possible!
How can we solve LGBTQ+ homelessness?
The good news is that there are tons of excellent initiatives and community organizations working to tackle the LGBTQ+ homelessness crisis. Point Source Youth, for example, organizes short-term housing solutions for young people and places a special emphasis on issues affecting LGBTQ+ communities. They also organize family counseling sessions to address the underlying causes of homelessness and direct cash transfers for helping people get back on their feet after experiencing homelessness.
Anothergreat organization is True Colors United, a homelessness charity that focuses specifically on the problems affecting LGBTQ+ communities. The organization is involved with a range of campaigns, including technical assistance programs, advocacy, training, education initiatives, and more. True Colors United works at both a state and federal level to ensure that LGBTQ+people around the country have access to the safety and shelter they deserve.
How can readers take action in their own communities?
Wondering how you can fight homelessness among LGBTQ+ individuals in your own community? The issue may feel overwhelming at this point – believe us, we get it. Faced with such a huge problem, it’s easy to feel powerless in a world full of injustice. But we have to start somewhere, right? Even small actions can make a huge difference in your community and allow you to show solidarity with marginalized people. Here are just a few actions you can take today to fight LGBTQ+ homelessness:
1. Donate to homeless charities
There are heaps of amazing charities across the country working to improve the livesof LGBTQ+ people experiencing homelessness. Why not support their work with a generous donation? Don’t worry if you’re on a low income – even a couple of dollars can make a difference.
2. Show solidarity in your organization or workplace
Fighting homelessness will always be a joint effort between like-minded individuals andorganizations. So, why not encourage your organization to get involved with the cause? There are plenty of ways to do this, including organizing a fundraising drive, speaking to colleagues about the problems facing LGBTQ+ people, and encouraging your organization to partner up with an organization such as True Colors United.
3. Get directly involved with community work
Homelessness charities are always on the lookout for volunteers to help them carry out their fantastic work. So, why not use some of your skills to advocate for the lives of LGBTQ+ people experiencing homelessness?
You could, for example, get involved with education sessions if you’re an experienced educator or legal advocacy if you’re a trained lawyer. Alternatively, you could help with cooking meals at homeless shelters or collecting second-hand clothes. If you’re ready to truly dedicate yourself to the cause, you could even open your home to LGBTQ+ youth on a temporary basis. Whatever your skills and priorities, there are opportunities out there for everyone.
Yep, voting can significantly affect the futures of LGBTQ+ people. Remember to read up on candidates before casting your ballot and consider lobbying your local representatives to take more action on LGBTQ+ homelessness. While this may feel a little daunting, try to remember that there’s a world to win! Your contribution could make a huge difference.
The hard work starts here!
So, there you have it – a few tips for battling the serious problem of LGBTQ+homelessness. There’s never been a more important time to get active in your community and use your natural compassion to care for others. Good luck – we believe in you!