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LGBTQ2S+ Community and Homelessness

June is Pride month in Canada. It is a month when we come together to support and celebrate the LGBTQ2S+ community. However, it is important that amid the celebrations, we develop a better understanding of the struggles that the LGBTQ2S+ community face on a daily basis. 

Toronto’s LGBTQ2S+ community is one of the most prominent demographics experiencing homelessness. In particular, LGBTQ2S+ youth aged 16 – 25 make up a large percentage of the homeless youth population. Homeless Hub states that an estimated 25 – 40 % of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ2S+, compared to only 5% of the overall youth population. There are many factors that contribute to the overrepresentation of the LGBTQ2S+ community among the homeless population. 

What causes LGBTQ2S+ homelessness?

Many members of the LGBTQ2S+ community become homeless after coming out to their family. Family conflict is one of the main reasons young people are kicked out of their home or choose to leave their home. 

For homeless LGBTQ2S+ youth, there is a strong likelihood of encountering homophobia or transphobia. They are often targeted for verbal and physical assault on the streets, and occasionally in the shelter system, because of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. 

LGBTQ2S+ individuals also have a harder time securing housing. Studies show that heterosexual couples have greater success with setting up potential apartment viewings than LGBTQ2S+ couples. Similarly, recent studies found that LGBTQ2S+ couples were significantly less likely than heterosexual couples to receive positive responses after in-person viewings of a potential rental. LGBTQ2S+ individuals are often faced with discrimination from landlords, as well as homophobia and transphobia from other residents, when trying to secure housing. 

In addition, trans and non-binary folks often have difficulty finding homelessness resources and housing due to a lack of funding for LGBTQ2S+ supports. Housing that is divided by gender is often unable to meet the unique needs of the transgender community. 

Fred Victor’s shelters and housing are open to all genders and accommodate individuals and couples. Our Women’s Hostel is specifically for women, including cis gender and transgender women. Fred Victor staff are trained to offer the necessary support to the diverse women who find themselves without a safe place to sleep off the street.

What can be done to fight LGBTQ2S+ homelessness?

First, there needs to be individualized supports that are tailored to the LGBTQ2S+ community – such as private accommodations. Broader systems changes include introducing advisory councils, more collaboration with LGBTQ2S+ groups in the city, and hiring more LGBTQ2S+-identified staff.  These are ways to better support members of the LGBTQ2S+ community who are experiencing homelessness. 

There also needs to be an expansion of shelter options for LGBTQ2S+ youth and adults in order to create environments where all people feel safe. This should include mandated training for all staff working with agencies that provide housing, child welfare, and other relevant services to the LGBTQ2S+ community. It is important to ensure that service providers have the capacity to help those in need with understanding and respect – and without judgement. 

While we celebrate Pride month and Toronto’s LGBTQ2S+ community, let’s take the time to educate ourselves on what it means to be homeless in Toronto, and the added challenges that homeless LGBTQ2S+ people face every day. 

Fred Victor celebrates all queer, trans and two-spirit folks in our community, and will continue to stand for LGBTQ2S+ rights and a more inclusive society for all.