Key messages

  • Research indicates that people who are LGBTI are over-represented in the homeless population.
  • Strategies to better meet the needs of homeless people who are LGBTI include education and training for housing workers, mediation skills, promoting broader definitions of couples and families, referral to specialist counselling and support services, and ensuring clients do not face further discrimination from other clients in emergency housing.

Recent research indicates that people who are LGBTI are over-represented in the homeless population. For young people, being same-sex attracted or gender questioning, particularly during the coming out process, can create vulnerabilities when their family or home environment is not supportive. Homeless young people who identify as LGBTI are at increased risk for sexual and substance abuse, risk-taking behaviour and mental health issues. Studies suggest that 15 per cent of homeless young people are same-sex attracted. Many have been rejected from their home or felt unsafe staying.

Some clients who are LGBTI connect to housing and homelessness services as a result of intimate partner violence. This can raise challenges if responses within the current family violence system are not inclusive of people in same-sex relationships. Evidence shows that intimate partner violence experienced by same-sex attracted people is just as common as it is in heterosexual relationships and that people may be reluctant to disclose the identity and gender of a perpetrator of violence or sexual assault if it is their same-sex partner.

It can be difficult for people who are LGBTI to find appropriate and sensitive services. There are challenges for family and domestic violence and transitional housing services in meeting the needs of LGBTI clients. Trans and gender diverse people, particularly those in transition, sometimes struggle to have their housing needs met, particularly when they need crisis housing.

Addressing the needs of LGBTI people

Strategies to better meet the needs of people who are LGBTI that require housing or homelessness services include:

  • education and training for housing and homelessness workers to understand and respond to LGBTI needs
  • mediation skills in dealing with family and friends of LGBTI clients
  • promoting broader definitions of couples and families than housing agencies and policy makers have traditionally used
  • referring clients to LGBTI counselling and support services
  • sensitivity of the housing requirements for trans and gender diverse people in transition, ensuring they are housed in settings appropriate to their affirmed or preferred gender
  • attention to emergency housing environments to ensure that clients do not face further discrimination from other clients.

References

Cochran, B. N., Stewart, A. J., Ginzler, J. A., and Cauce, A. M., 2002, Challenges faced by homeless sexual minorities: comparison of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender homeless adolescents with their heterosexual counterparts, American Journal of Public Health 92(5):773-777.

Rew, L., Whittaker, T. A., Taylor-Seehafer, M. A., and Smith, L. R., 2005, Sexual health risks and protective resources in gay, lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual homeless youth, Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing10(1):11-19.

Rosario, M., Schrimshaw, E. W., and Hunter, J., 2012, Homelessness among lesbian, gay, and bisexual Youth: implications for subsequent internalizing and externalizing symptoms, Journal of Youth and Adolescence 41(5):544-560.

Rossiter, B., Mallett, S., Myers, P., and Rosenthal, D., 2003, Living well? Homeless young people in Melbourne, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne.

Van Leeuwen, J. M., Boyle, S., Salomonsen-Sautel, S., Baker, D. N., Garcia, J. T., Hoffman, A., and Hopfer, C. J., 2006, Lesbian, gay, and bisexual homeless youth: an eight-city public health perspective, Child Welfare 85(2):151-170.