Though we now have estimates of the size of the gay and transgender youth homeless population and cursory insight into this problem’s genesis, we need more and better information. We know that gay and transgender youth are highly overrepresented in the homeless youth population, but we don’t know exactly to what extent. We may know about the various pathways that lead gay and transgender youth to homelessness, but we don’t have enough hard data about how these pathways vary based on a youth’s exact age or race, or whether they live in a city or more rural areas.
All federal programs serving homeless youth should be required to track information about the gay and transgender youth they come in contact with. The Obama administration should call for and Congress should fund research into why gay and transgender youth become homeless, why their families reject them, why schools and the foster care system are failing them, what is barring them from education and the workforce, and why so many gay and transgender children end up in the juvenile justice system.
The Departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Education, and Labor, as well as the Census Bureau, should be involved in crafting and executing this research. Only by collecting more thorough information on this large segment of the homeless youth population will we be able to fully understand how to keep gay and transgender youth off the street.
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