There are about 1.6 million homeless youth in the U.S., and they overwhelmingly identify as LGBT+ individuals. Less than ten percent of young people identify as LGBT+, but over 40 percent of homeless youth do, as reported from Chapin Hill.
In DC, that number is even higher at 43% of homeless youth identifying as LGBT+ which has made its way to becoming a priority of Mayor Bowser’s initiative to ensure that LGBT+ youth have access to safe affordable housing, healthcare and preventative care, case management, and support systems they can rely on when they may not have that in their biological family.
As the District dives deeper into action for the Solid Foundations DC: Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Youth Homelessness, we recognize that the LGBT+ identifying youth in DC face barriers to success at significantly higher rates than their straight peers.
A recent article from the Washington Blade highlights the ways in which we need to further develop LGBT+ support in our social services organizations and shelters as well as feedback from listening sessions with service providers in the District.
According to service providers, additional reasons for homelessness include aging out of the foster care system, poverty, and conflict in the home. Often, it’s not one thing that causes homelessness, but a combination of many as said by the True Colors Fund.
LGBT+ people are already more likely to be targets of a hate crime than any other minority group, so being forced out of their homes due to their sexual orientation is sadly unsurprising. And this is higher among young LGBT+ parents, who are three times more likely to experience homelessness in comparison to their non-parenting peers.
While progress is slow, the action of the LGBTQ Homeless Youth Reform Amendment Act, which the D.C. Council passed unanimously in 2014 is a step in the right direction. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) and then Council member Bowser (D-Ward 4) were the co-introducers of the legislation. Among other things, the measure allocates city funds for expanding existing homeless facilities, including shelters, to include additional beds for LGBT+ identifying youth.
We will continue to show our support for more comprehensive funding for the programs in the District that benefit LGBT+ homeless youth as we move forward from Pride month into the rest of the calendar year. Read more about resources in the District and how we stack up compared to other states in the US, below.
DC Resources for LGBT+ Identifying Youth & Adults in a Housing Crisis
Casa Ruby Emergency Hotline: 202-355-5155
SMYAL: Empowering LGBTQ youth
SMYAL Contact Information: 202.546.5940
Alphabetical Listing of LGBTQIA Organizations in DC
The DC Center for the LGBT Community
How Does DC stand comparatively to other states?
True Colors Fund has a State index on Youth Homelessness which includes information based on current: Law & Policy, Systems, and Environment. You can see how DC stacks up: Washington DC Youth Homelessness Index and see their recommendations for improvement.
GLAA’s 2018 Election Guide to LGBTQ Issues in Washington DC
According to the US State of Homelessness report, 564,708 people experience homelessness on any given night—meaning they sleep outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program.
Amongst 32 of the largest US cities, DC has the highest homelessness rate with over 8,000 homeless individuals, or 124 homeless people for every 10,000 residents in the general population.
The rate in DC is almost double the national average.
The face of homelessness is not an old man-- it’s actually a young child. HUD reports that on any given night, over 138,000 of the homeless in the US are children under the age of 18.
In our nation’s capital, families make up 52% of the homeless community.
With rent prices soaring across US cities, many low-income people turn to subsidized housing for a place to sleep.
But in recent years, HUD’s budget has been slashed by over 50%, resulting in the loss of 10,000 units of subsidized low-income housing each and every year.
Over 90% of homeless women are victims of severe physical or sexual abuse, and escaping that abuse is a leading cause of their homelessness.
Slipping in and out of homelessness, studies find DC women stay in a low-barrier shelter a median number of 27 nights.
Many homeless people rely on non-profits like Thrive DC for daily hot meals and showers. But with government funding cuts, these organizations need your help fundraising and donating.
Just $26 provides organizations like Thrive DC with a full month of hot showers for their homeless clients. You can also see your donations in action by volunteering with Thrive DC.
And if you encounter a homeless person on the street and want to help right then and there, print out or pick up these cards that include info about how to get any sort of help they may need.
Consider helping out your community today
While DC General stays open, there are around 5,000 emergency shelter beds. DC has the obligation to provide shelter for all homeless individuals when it’s a Cold Emergency [DC Department of Human Services]. It is required by law.
But a shortage of beds means that in normal conditions, there are at least 2,000 people who are going to be left out in the rain. This lack of capacity especially hurts women, for whom there are only 313 shelter beds in the city.
When you look at the estimated population of homeless individuals in DC [Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness], that means we're talking about 1,000 people/shower location. That’s impossible :(
In addition, when looking at confounding factors such as accessibility and transportation, the available showering areas become even less of an option.
Living in these extremely challenging conditions proves to be a uniquely hard experience within the homeless community as a feminine body—or any body other than a non-cisgender male for that matter. Being a feminine body is extremely dangerous and dehumanizing. You are often targeted for violence and taking care of hygienic needs is a luxury rather than a given.
In addition, domestic violence is the immediate cause of homelessness for many women [National Alliance to End Homelessness]. Studies show that a high percentage of women experiencing homelessness are domestic abuse survivors, even if domestic abuse is not the direct cause of homelessness.
Many poor families share the same characteristics as homeless families [National Alliance to End Homelessness]. They are headed by single women with low education, young, and have high rates of domestic violence and mental illness. All it takes is one unplanned life event to shake someone’s world.
Nothing changes until we make it happen. We need to change our lens and see that homeless individuals deserve safe, healthy, and most importantly autonomous lives.