A growing body of research suggests that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth make up to 40 percent of the homeless youth population in the United States, yet only up to five percent of the general youth population. While reasons for their homelessness vary, the most frequently cited cause is family rejection based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. The True Colors Fund Forty to None Project is committed to taking that number from 40 percent to none.
To start to do this, we must have an accurate count of homeless youth in the country, including gay and transgender homeless youth.That is why the Forty to None Project has been both proud and grateful to work with the federal government, service providers, and philanthropic leaders from across the country to send the message that homeless gay and transgender youth count. Because of our efforts, we are one step closer to the goal of ending youth homelessness by 2020. How, you ask? Read on!
Youth Count! is an important example of the positive impact that can be made when the private and public sectors work together to create change. Nine communities across the country participated in this federal interagency initiative to develop ways to improve how we count the number of youth experiencing homelessness through HUDs Point-in-Time count. This is the first effort of its kind, but certainly not the last. We still have a lot to learn.
Youth are a unique group, with a unique set of experiences and behaviors that require targeted counting methods. The researchers at the Urban Institute understand this well. That’s why, with help from the philanthropic community, they conducted a process evaluation of the Youth Count! initiative to help us better understand what effective counting methods should look like. Their evaluation will also help us identify promising strategies that can be tested in cities and towns across the country to produce better, more useful data.
Better data will show how many young people are experiencing homelessness, as well as who these young people are, including the way they identify their sexual orientation and gender identity. That’s right! All nine communities that participated in the initiative asked questions about sexual orientation and gender identity, sending the message that gay and transgender youth count!
Though we don’t yet know the exact nationwide numbers, we do know that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender young people make up a disproportionate percentage of the population of youth experiencing homelessness. And here’s something else we know: these young people matter, and they do count.
The Youth Count! initiative and future homeless youth counts are an important first step toward getting better data on youth. , It is going to take all of us to keep the momentum going to reach the goal of ending homelessness among gay and transgender youth. Learn more about the work of the Forty to None Project and Youth Count! to get informed and get involved in ensuring that all youth count!
For more information and for data sources, please visit:
Gregory Lewis and Dr. Jama Shelton are the Executive Director and Forty to None Project Director respectively at the True Colors Fund. The True Colors Fund was co-founded by Cyndi Lauper to inspire everyone to get involved in the advancement of equality for all and to raise awareness about and bring an end to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth homelessness.