Washington, D.C. — With the Senate still debating anti-human trafficking legislation that would also provide much-needed services to runaway and homeless youth, particularly those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, or LGBT, through an amendment reauthorizing the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, the Center for American Progress has released a column outlining ways in which the Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, can act independently to make an immediate difference for LGBT homeless young people.
According to recent research, roughly 40 percent of unaccompanied homeless youth are LGBT. These young people require the same services as other homeless youth—food, shelter, health care, counseling, and education and career development—but also face risks of discrimination that often lead to substandard services or no services at all. HHS currently has the statutory authority to make critical changes to the way LGBT homeless youth are treated right now that would not require new legislation.
“Too many LGBT youth become homeless as a result of family rejection, poverty, or failures within the child welfare and juvenile justice systems,” said Hannah Hussey, CAP Research Associate for LGBT Progress and author of the column. “Once homeless, they may face discrimination and safety risks at shelters and other programs meant to provide basic services when there is nowhere else to go. The threats to the health and well-being of these young people are a pressing concern, making it vital for the Administration for Children and Families to take action to improve services for LGBT homeless youth.”
Previous reports from the Center for American Progress have demonstrated that when LGBT youth become homeless and lack access to safe and affirming services, they are at increased risk for a variety of negative outcomes, including poor physical and mental health, experiences of violence, engagement in survival sex or sex trafficking victimization, criminalization, and barriers to academic achievement.
The column outlines four steps that the Administration for Children and Families can take to improve services for LGBT homeless youth right now:
- Require nondiscriminatory and culturally and linguistically appropriate services to make sure that young people are not receiving substandard services or being denied services based on their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
- Give providers greater flexibility in deciding when to engage families of origin or to share sensitive information about the youth, and broaden the definition of family to allow others who may not be families of origin to provide support, guidance, mentorship or housing. Many LGBT homeless youth say that an immediate return to their family is detrimental to their health and cite it as a reason not to engage public services at all.
- Promote access to health care to clarify to providers that federal funding supports mental and behavioral health services, including suicide prevention and appropriate referrals for health coverage.
- Foster youth resiliency by requiring providers to integrate a positive youth development framework into their programs. The Administration for Children and Families can support providers in engaging youth as capable individuals with complex needs, goals, and identities.
Click here to read the column.
For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at email@example.com or 202.481.7141.