Falling Through the Cracks
On May 17-18th, 2023, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) and Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) held a Statewide Virtual Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) Conference. One topic of importance to conference organizers was diversity, equity, and inclusion for LGBTQ+ individuals experiencing homelessness.
Per recent studies, we know that approximately 17% of sexual minority individuals have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives, despite only 3.5% of the population identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. When we take into account the specific experiences of transgender, non-binary, and other gender non-conforming individuals, we see even greater disparities. Approximately 0.3% of the population identify as transgender, but nearly 30% of transgender people report experiencing homelessness at some point during their lifetime. In fact, homelessness among transgender people increased by 88% between 2016 and 2020, with the rate of unsheltered homelessness for trans people increasingly by a drastic 113%.
Experiences of discrimination, mistreatment, harassment, and violence all play a role in these poor outcomes. We know that stable housing is the foundation of health and wellness for all individuals. As such, it is absolutely vital that advocates for people experiencing homelessness include LGBTQ+ individuals in their work. In his 70-minute presentation, Housing First University’s Director of Training & Technical Assistance, Andrew Spiers, LSW, addressed the driving factors contributing to LGBTQ+ homelessness and provided suggestions for how to combat this inequity through culturally competent and affirming service provision.