The Housing Again Bulletin, sponsored by Raising the Roof as a partner in Housing Again.
A monthly electronic bulletin highlighting what people are doing to put housing back on the public agenda across Canada and around the world, sponsored by Raising the Roof as part of the Housing Again partnership.
News for June, 2007
Gay Homeless Youth More At Risk
USA and Canada
With the ever-increasing visibility of gay, lesbian, bisexual, 2-Spirited and transgender people in society, more teens are finding the courage to come out with their parents at younger ages. This courageous act, however, often results in the teens being told to leave home. Of the millions of homeless youth across North America, gay youth are disproportionately represented especially within urban centres. Yet they often face barriers to services, which may, in any case, not adequately be able to meet their needs.
According to a new report, An Epidemic of Homelessness, from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute and National Coalition for the Homeless in the U.S., of the estimated 1.6 million homeless American youth, between 20 and 40 percent identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). In addition, research studies of homeless LGBT youth find that they suffer from greater levels of violence and trauma, higher rates of HIV infection, have greater mental health needs, including suicidal thoughts and attempts, and engaged in greater levels of substance abuse than their straight counterparts in the homeless youth population.
The study found that 26 percent of gay teens who came out to their parents/guardians were told they must leave home. LGBT youth also often leave home due to physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Homeless LGBT youth are more likely to use drugs and participate in sex work or survival sex and seven times more likely to be victims of crime.
The study also found that LGBT youth report they are often threatened, belittled and abused at shelters by staff as well as other residents. If an organization’s core belief is that homosexuality is wrong, the study concluded, its leaders and volunteers may not respect a client’s sexual orientation or gender identity and may expose LGBT youth to discriminatory treatment.
The report features a number of innovative programs that are addressing the issues facing this population and concludes with a series of policy recommendations that can help to curb the “epidemic” of LGBT youth homelessness.
“While our focus in this publication and in these policy recommendations is to address LGBT-specific concerns, we believe that homelessness is not an issue that can be tackled piecemeal,” wrote report author Nicholas Ray. “Wholesale improvement is needed, and that is what we propose.”
A study in 2001 identified a variety of issues related to gay street-involved youth, including homelessness and shelter services, which require further study. York University Professor Stephen Gaetz, who has studied the issue, authored a report a few years ago called Street Justice, which makes a number of good recommendations.
The Trans Programmes at the 519 Church Street Community Centre has been actively working with the Toronto shelter system since 2001, and has developed a reputation as a reliable resource for shelters undertaking the accessibility process. The centre offers a variety of anti-poverty and homeless services including a clothing program, health bus, ID clinic, meal trans program and Sunday drop-in.
Trans Youth Ottawa also provides on-line support services. Transgender Canada is another resource.
The Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line is a toll-free Ontario-wide peer-support phone line for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, 2-spirited, queer and questioning young people. The Youth Line also provides online peer-support through the online forum and email response. In June, they will be presenting the 9th Annual Youth Line Community Youth Awards to recognize outstanding achievements made by lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer youth, as well as by queer youth-serving agencies and groups in the province of Ontario.
One of last year’s winners, Christopher Hayden, who was honoured for his outstanding contribution to queer youth visibility, told Housing Again that queer-identified services provide a safe haven for LGBT youth.
“Queer youth need to know they can trust the organization long before they reach out,” said Hayden. “They want to know they won’t be judged, harassed or treated like who they are is fundamentally wrong.”
2007 Innovation Award WinnerYM/YWCA of Greater Victoria
In this second year of Eva’s Initiatives Award for Innovation, which is sponsored by CIBC, three winners were recognized for their outstanding and unique work with homeless youth. Each winning organization received a prize of $5,000. Eva’s Initiatives received 66 applications from organizations working with homeless youth in ten provinces and territories. A seven-member panel, knowledgeable about services for homeless youth across Canada, reviewed all applications and selected three winners from among the many applicants with impressive and innovative projects underway in communities across the county. They also selected another five as finalists, including the YM/YWCA of Greater Victoria in British Columbia. Societal issues facing today’s young people are more challenging than ever before and the YM-YWCA of Greater Victoria believes all young people “deserve every opportunity to explore positive values, acquire social competencies and develop a strong and positive identity of themselves.”They have developed seven programs to support at-risk youth and young pregnant women. A community counselling program for youth aged 12 – 19 includes individual, family and group counseling, public education and workshops. They have a supported independent living service which supports youth aged 16 – 21 to help establish independent living skills. And Pandora Youth Apartments is transitional housing for youth aged 15 – 19 which includes eight independent, fully contained bachelor units. To assist street involved/entrenched youth aged 12 – 21, a Medical Mobile Unit distributes food, blankets, condoms and clothing. The program also participates in the Out of the Rain Night Shelter Coalition. The Bridging the Gap outreach project focuses on prevention, education and intervention with youth involved with or at risk of becoming involved with crystal metamethaphine.To assist young pregnant women, the MUMREACH program provides preventive outreach focused on prenatal health. And the Kiwanis House Program offers quality, self contained housing units for eight single mothers and their child under 5 with an emphasis on parenting and life skills in the context of community.
Canadian Housing Renewal Association’s 39th Annual Congress
Canadian Housing Renewal Association’s 39th Annual Congress held in Calgary from May 9-12 was its largest in recent history attracting more than 370 delegates. Keynote speakers included Federal Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, Monte Solberg; New Zealand Housing Minister Chris Carter and Thuso Maphala of Housing People of Zimbabweuso. The 40th Annual CHRA Congress will be held in Vancouver, April 2008.