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LBTQ Homeless Youth

An estimated 3.5 million people in the United States are homeless. According to the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, Throwaway Children (NISMART), nearly 1.7 million of them are homeless; of those, an estimated 40% identify as LGBTQ. 

This Silk aims to explore the issue of homelessness amongst LGBTQ youth by visualizing data from the Williams Institute’s Serving Our Youth report.

Main Findings

  1. Agencies working with homeless populations reported that the majority of LGBT clients (43%), used drop-in centers.
  2. LGBT youth reported family rejection and physical, emotional, or sexual abuse at home as the main reasons they were homeless.
  3. According to agencies working with homeless populations, LGBT youth suffer worse health issues than other homeless youth.
  4. The majority of agencies working with homeless populations cited lack of federal, state, government, local, city, and country funding as the main barrier in improving efforts to prevent and address LGBT homelessness.

Percentage of Clients Served: LGBT and Non-LGBT Youth

The Williams Institute conducted a LGBT Homeless Youth Provider Survey from October 2011 - March 2012. Through this survey, agencies working with homeless populations were asked what percentage of clients they served identified as LGBT and utilized drop-in centers, street outreach programs, and housing programs. As demonstrated by the graph, the majority of LGBT homeless youth used drop-in centers. 

Clients Served in Drop-in Centers 
Clients Served in Housing Programs
Clients Served in Street Outreach Programs

Reason Why LGBT Youth are Homeless

The survey also asked respondents to cite reasons why LGBT youth are homeless. The following graph outlines the top-5 reasons why LGBT youth are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless. The majority of respondents cited family rejection as the primary reason. 

Reason why LGBT youth are homeless or at-risk of being homeless 

Number of Homeless Youth

Number of homeless and non-homeless youths served, by sexual orientation


During the survey, agencies working with homeless populations were asked to cite the number of homeless clients they served, based on the sexual orientation of clients. The survey found that a significant number of “clients were sexual minorities.”

Health of LGBT Homeless Youth

Health rating of LGBT homeless youth




Further, more than half of agencies (58%) noted that transgender homeless youth suffer worse physical or mental issues than other homeless youth. Similarly, agencies also stated that the health of LGB homeless youth “somewhat worse” (43%) or “about the same” (47%). 

Video Special: LGBT Homeless Youths are Making Themselves at Home

Health History and Experiences of LGBT Homeless Youth

Findings from respondents demonstrate that there is a “strong connection between family rejection and abuse and homelessness for LGBT youth.” In fact, 68% of respondents cited a history of “family rejection,” followed by mental health issues (65%), and family abuse (54%). 

Percentage of LGBT homeless youth that have a history of: 

Barriers in Improving Efforts to Prevent or Address LGBT Homelessness

Agencies working with LGBT homeless populations were asked to cite the barriers they faced in improving efforts to prevent or address LGBT homelessness. The majority of respondents cited lack of funding as the major barrier––whether it was lack of federal, state, local, city, or county funding.

Barriers in improving efforts to prevent / address LGBT homelessness:

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Organizations Working with LGBT Homeless Youth 

Prevent LGBT Youth Homelessness 

Infographic: Laura Longwell.