LGBTQ Homeless Youth Undercount?

As January came to a close, city and state governments and volunteers nationwide set out to count the number of homeless people living on their streets. As Sarah Goodyear reports in Atlantic Cities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning young people are likely underrepresented by a large margin in most of these local and national efforts. Mary Cunningham, a senior research associate of the Urban Institute, estimates LGBTQ young people could make up as much as 40 percent of all homeless teens and young adults. That estimate is reinforced by a study released last November  by the New York City Coalition on the Continuum of Care. Darrick Hamilton of The New School and Lance Freeman of Columbia guided a team of researchers surveying young people at New York City drop-in centers during the city's annual homeless street count. They found that 34 percent were lesbian, gay or bisexual and another 6 percent were transgendered. All but 10 percent of the young people identified and surveyed were black or Latino. Two thirds had run away from home before age 18, and one-third said physical, mental or sexual abuse was one reason for their homelessness.

Most had been homeless for a long period of time -- the median was two years. Yet almost half had at some point earned a high school diploma.

The findings of one-night, point-in-time surveys are not necessarily generalizable. The Urban Institute aims to strengthen data about homeless youth using the Youth Count! Project, in order to help cities better target services, schooling, health care and housing. More info on the project can be found here.