Invisible and Forgotten: LGBTQIA+ Homeless Youth Hurting in the Holidays

LGBTQIA+ homeless person new york 2008As the streets get colder and the holiday season sneaks closer, it’s time to embrace the giving spirit. It’s so easy to get lost in the rush of the lead up to it all, that sometimes we all just need a simple reminder of what really matters, and of what is going on in the world.

Homelessness is increasing, and a huge number of youth who are living rough are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. In the US alone there are around 1.6 million homeless youth, and up to 40 percent of those are queer. In the UK, it’s estimated that a quarter of the homeless youth are queer. In Australia, the number sits at 30 percent. No child, no adult, deserves to be left forgotten in the cold. Disturbingly, many of these youths find themselves in the vulnerable position of being homeless due to their family’s reaction to them identifying as LGBQTIA+. Many have been kicked out of home, cut off, sent away and left to fend for themselves purely due to being queer. Add to the fact that many LGBTQIA+ people face discrimination in shelters and from charity services, and the hurdles for these queer kids and adults just keep in increasing.

Imagine. You’re fifteen. Maybe younger, maybe a little older. Your home smells like pine leaves and cinnamon. Red and green is dashed throughout the place and everyone is talking about the importance of family, of time together, of the gifts they want and that they hope to leave for others under the tree you all put up together. Or maybe it’s another holiday, the menorah already lit the first evening before sunset, left to right, a tradition that runs through your blood.

You’ve been struggling with the decision to come out. Is it safe? Will you be supported? Should you wait? Or maybe you were outed. Your privacy violated and your secrets spilled? Perhaps they guessed and you admitted your own truth? Then there’s yelling. Or stony silence. Disappointment in your family’s eyes. And, just like that, you’re out in the cold, or in the blistering heat, depending on where you live. All because of who you love or how you love or what gender you reveal you are. With shaking fingers you try to call someone, but every number is busy, rings out or goes to voicemail. Maybe you try to stay on people’s sofas, “couch surfing”, but that’s not always an option, and even when it is, you don’t want to overstay your welcome.

Where do you go? Who can help you? Sadly this is too many people’s reality. And it’s not just during the festive season, it’s an issue all year round. How can you help? Volunteer. Educate. Share holiday season information. Donate, if you can. And if not, spread the word and help others donate.

Here is a list from just some of the various places that work with homeless queer youth:

And if you do find yourself homeless, here are a few tips to help you get by, from the Australian service ReachOut.com

  • Stockpile cheap foods like noodles and rice.
  • Arrange to have dinner with a friend or family member regularly if you can.
  • Keep in contact with your friends and trusted family members
  • Make sure someone knows where you are and that you’re safe.
  • Access the internet for free at most libraries and youth centres.

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