Being a teenager can be a tough time.
Your body is changing, and so is your mind. You are searching for independence, but still need the support of your family. All of this can be difficult to navigate, and can be even harder if you are also coming out for the first time.
Unfortunately, an all too common reality for many young LGBTQ2S youth, is a rejection by their families. Many times this means being forced to live on the streets.
This is a huge issue across Canada.
According to research from coast to coast, about 14 per cent of young Canadians identify as LGBT, but they make up 40 per cent of the number of youth living on our streets.
Alex Abramovich is a researcher at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). He explained in an interview with the Huffington Post that LGBT youth become homeless for much of the same reasons as other young people, but when you add LGBT identity into the mix, the severity of these reasons can multiply. This can include family conflict, abuse, mental health issues and addiction.
Shelters can become the only option, but these are not always safe for LGBTQ2S youth. They face emotional and physical violence from non-LGBTQ2S individuals in the shelter, and sometimes even from staff.
“Hate crimes against the LGBTQ community are the most violent of any hate crime and we know that these are youth-based crimes,” Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, told CBC News.
But organizations and governments are starting to make some much-needed changes.
Toronto will be home to Canada’s first federally funded emergency and transitional housing facility for LGBT youth in 2019. The Salvation Army opened a new spacefor homeless members of the LGBT community in Winnipeg. OUTSaskatoon has opened the first long-term LGBTQ youth home in Canada for individuals at risk of homelessness called Pride Home.
And Alberta has been taking steps since 2015.
Alberta became the first province to adopt a provincial strategy on LGBTQ2S youth homelessness. In 2017 the provincial government announced new guidelines for shelters, following through on key recommendations made by Abramovich at CAMH.
While change is being made, there is still much work to do across the country. LGBTQ2S homeless youth need our support and provinces need to do more to address the serious issues they face.