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LGBTQ2S+ Community and Homelessness

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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 stay.

What can be done to fight LGBTQ2S+ homelessness?

Systems Changes

Broader systems changes are crucial to better support LGBTQ2S+ individuals experiencing homelessness. Key actions include:

Advisory Councils: Establishing advisory councils composed of LGBTQ2S+ members and allies can provide valuable insights into the needs and challenges faced by this community. These councils can guide policy decisions and program developments to ensure they are inclusive and effective.

Collaboration with LGBTQ2S+ Groups: Increased collaboration with LGBTQ2S+ organizations and groups within the city can enhance the support network available to homeless individuals. Partnering with these groups can provide specialized resources and advocacy to better address the root causes of LGBTQ2S+ homelessness.

Hiring LGBTQ2S+-Identified Staff: Employing more staff who identify as LGBTQ2S+ can significantly improve the quality of support provided. These staff members can offer relatable experiences and a deeper understanding of the community’s needs, fostering a more inclusive and empathetic environment.

Expanding Shelter Options

There also needs to be an expansion of shelter options specifically for LGBTQ2S+ youth and adults. Creating environments where all individuals feel safe and respected is essential. This can be achieved through:

Dedicated LGBTQ2S+ Shelters: Establishing shelters exclusively for LGBTQ2S+ individuals can provide a safe haven where they can be themselves without fear of discrimination or harm. These shelters should be equipped with resources tailored to the unique needs of the community.

Mandated Training for Staff: Implementing mandatory training programs for all staff working in agencies that provide housing, child welfare, and other relevant services is crucial. These training programs should focus on cultural competency, sensitivity, and respect for LGBTQ2S+ individuals, ensuring that service providers are equipped to offer support without judgment.

Building Capacity and Awareness

It is important to ensure that service providers have the capacity to help those in need with understanding and respect. Efforts should include:

Awareness Campaigns: Raising awareness about the specific challenges faced by LGBTQ2S+ homeless individuals can help garner public support and drive policy changes. Campaigns should focus on educating the public and service providers about the importance of inclusivity and the need for specialized support.

Continuous Professional Development: Offering ongoing professional development opportunities for staff can help maintain high standards of care and support. This can include workshops, seminars, and training sessions on the latest best practices in supporting LGBTQ2S+ individuals.

Group of young cheerful friends strolling together on day of pride parade in city.

Addressing LGBTQ2S+ homelessness requires a multifaceted approach that combines individualized supports, systems changes, and an expansion of shelter options. By creating safe, inclusive environments and fostering collaboration with LGBTQ2S+ groups, we can make significant strides in supporting this vulnerable community. Through mandated training and awareness campaigns, we can ensure that service providers are equipped to offer compassionate, respectful, and effective support. Together, we can work towards a future where every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, has a place to call home.

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.

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