LGBT young people are over-represented on our streets and Ireland doesn’t know how to help- UCC LGBT Society campaigns for better
LGBT youth are disproportionately represented in the homeless population, as shown by international research. However, we know very little about LGBT homelessness in an Irish context. In America, studies report that about 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT, with 46% of them stating that they ran away from home due to family rejection, and 43% being forced to leave by their parents due to being LGBT. Closer to home in the UK, The Albert Kennedy Trust- a charity working with LGBT homeless youth- reports that 24% of homeless youth identify as LGBT, 77% of whom stating that coming out at home was the main reason for their becoming homeless.
This hints at a consistent and tragic narrative of rejection and instability at home for many LGBT youth today- but there is no such data for Ireland. Despite calls for research in the area from both Focus Ireland and BeLonGTo, we still know nothing about the numbers of LGBT youth on our streets, and their experiences. Further, many young LGBT people may fall into the category of “Hidden Homeless,” as friends and the LGBT community band together to offer couches and spare beds to those without a home, helping keep them off the streets and off the radar of homeless groups around the country. While this informal support system protects and shelters many, these individuals are still without a home, and it makes it difficult to quantify the scale of the issue.
Without data on this homeless demographic, a targeted response cannot be formed to help this group. While LGBT homeless youth have similar needs to the rest of the homeless population, there are several issues that need particular focus for these individuals. Young LGBT homeless people are more vulnerable to homophobic/transphobic intimidation and violence, with Canadian literature on the topic stating that “LGBTQ youth are avoiding support services and shelters due to the ongoing violence and discrimination they are subjected to, which suggests that it is homophobia and transphobia that is segregating youth from much needed homeless services.” Transgender individuals may also face deeply gendered spaces and facilities, which increases opportunity for transphobia and prevents them from accessing the services they require. If the scale of the issue in Ireland was known, homeless shelters and services could review their anti-discrimination policies and implement them so as to protect young LGBT people. Training could also be provided for staff so as to create a safe, inclusive environment.
In their Submission to the LGBTI Youth Strategy last year, Focus Ireland also recommended that preventative measures could be implemented when guided by Irish research. As a great deal of LGBT youth homelessness is caused by family rejection and unrest, they suggest a family mediation service to heal these rifts before young people end up out of a home.
In light of these circumstances, the UCC LGBT society is launching a campaign to bring awareness to the issue of LGBT homelessness, and to petition for Irish research in the area.
Running from the 26th of February to the 1st of March, the campaign, called “OUT On The Streets,” will include a photo and video campaign, focusing on causes and effects of homelessness and the experiences of LGBT homeless youth, and an online petition to the government to work with service providers such as BeLonGTo and Focus Ireland, and to fund research to guide our country’s approach to LGBT youth homelessness. All of the information can be found on the UCC LGBT Society Facebook page.