Homelessness has been a growing problem during COVID-19. While the media has given much attention to pandemic related homelessness, the growing rate of homelessness amongst LGBTQ teens has been largely neglected.
According to NBC News, studies show that 20% to 45% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, and among young adults ages 18 to 25, LGBTQ people have a 2.2 times greater risk to be homeless than their non-LGBTQ counterparts.
Unfortunately, many of these queer young people lack the necessary resources and centers that accommodate to their physical and mental health needs.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many LGBTQ centers have been closed or reduced their hours due to pandemic health precautions. Without these centers, many LGBTQ teens have been struggling immensely, many of them living in unsafe, violent, and homophobic family environments.
When I first learned of this news, I immediately thought of my gay friend in Texas. He comes from a very conservative religious community, one that is extremely homophobic. Recently, he came out to his parents, who were very much against his sexuality. After several high tensioned arguments, his father kicked him out of the house. For several weeks, he had no home. No homeless shelter or LGBTQ center could accept him due to COVID-19 restrictions. Fortunately, he was able to stay with a friend for a while, but he knows this is not a long-term solution.
Unfortunately, I realized that what my friend is going through is what countless queer teens are going through right now. According to Youth.gov, LGBTQ youth cite the biggest reason for their homelessness is family rejection. Without the support of family, LGBTQ teens need a place to stay, but they often avoid homeless shelters for fear of harassment.
Beyond the lack of family support, many teens struggle with another issue. Currently, queer individuals of color are largely underrepresented and underserved. As a mixed-race Latino and Asian student myself, I can attest to the lack of resources for minority teens, particularly those who are queer.
Each time I talk to my friend in Texas, I realize more and more the vast number of issues that have gone unaddressed. My friend is African American, and I often hear him tell me how difficult it is for him to be gay in predominately White community. Because my friend does not have support at home and cannot relate to anyone at his high school, he has unfortunately resorted to self-harm to cope with his depression.
Reflected in a report by the Trevor Project, this issue is predominant within queer teens of color. According to the Trevor Project report, 44% of Black LGBTQ teens have contemplated suicide in the past 12 months, and 35% of Black LGBTQ youth have experienced homelessness.
We cannot let this continue, for countless of queer teens, particularly those of color, are silently suffering right now. We need a better solution for them. I fear that without support and resources, my friend, and countless like him, may end up homeless, which increases the chances of dropping out of high school.
Firstly, we need to expand the number of services offered to LGBTQ teens, particularly those of minority backgrounds. These resources should address the myriad of issues experienced by LGBTQ teens, such as mental health, sexual health, education, and access points to food and shelter.
Since many LGBTQ centers are still shut down due to the pandemic, we should tap into high school counselors and staff for assistance on these issues. Focusing on LGBTQ issues is very important, for it will help ensure fewer dropouts amongst queer high school students.