LGBT Youth

The Challenge

At least 20% of youth who experience homelessness identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT)1. Compared to their heterosexual peers who experience homelessness, these young people have higher rates of abuse, mental illness, substance use, and child welfare involvement. Little is known about how best to serve them. Programs not specifically designed for LGBT homeless youth populations are often unprepared to deal openly with their needs.2

Our Focus

We are dedicated to translating the newest research into real-world tools, training, and technical assistance. Our work with youth experiencing homelessness and identifying as LGBT has led to a unique partnerships with community based organizations that directly serve LGBT homeless youth. Through these partnerships, we have developed a knowledge and understanding of the unique and complex needs of LGBT homeless youth.

National Center of Excellence

We have recently entered into a partnership with Ali Forney Center in New York City to develop a National Center of Excellence on LGBT youth homelessness. The collaboration is a partnership with LGBT youth experiencing homelessness to translate best practices into tools for homeless service providers. The project will be piloted in the New York City area and will then be scaled nationally. Specific activities include the development of online resources and an online peer-to-peer learning community; creation of web-based training courses; custom technical assistance for individual programs; and face-to-face trainings.

The goal of this partnership is to develop concrete tools and resources that providers can use to serve LGBT youth experiencing homelessness — and ultimately improve the lives of these very important young people.

Our Contributions

Previously, with primary funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Center for Social Innovation has taken the lead in helping to serve this population by developing onsite trainings and webcasts, technical assistance, and original content featured on the Homelessness Resource Center website. We also collaborated on a video training series that profiled LGBT youth and service providers at Larkin Street Youth Services in San Francisco.

C4 staff, through the Homelessness Resource Center project, convened and facilitated a multidisciplinary expert panel on service needs of LGBT youth who are homeless. The expert panel recommended strategies for identifying and disseminating a promising practice model. The panel also set an agenda for future work that includes customized onsite training, a distance-learning course, and further exploration of promising and innovative programs.

In addition to the Expert Panel, the Homelessness Resource Center coordinated a Listening Tour to learn from service providers around the country. The Listening Tour developed a clear understanding of the needs of service providers working with LGBT homeless youth.

Through the T3 Training Institute, C4 has developed an online learning tool for homeless service providers who work with youth. The training course includes information relevant to working with LGBT homeless youth. Learn more about T3.

Other Contributions

In addition to the work listed above, we have invested in other LGBT projects through:

  • Creating an online learning module (SAMHSA)
  • Hosting multiple webcasts (SAMHSA)
  • Developing and delivering on-site training workshops (SAMHSA)
  • Developing homelessness chapter for book on LGBT youth (SAMSHA)
  • Partnering with Youth on Fire that spans many activities, including SAMHSA work and new project development
  • Partnering with Outside In on new project development
  • Collaborating with national groups including National Alliance to End Homelessness, which helped to spearheaded National Best Practices Recommendations for LGBT Homeless Youth
  • Connecting with multiple national researchers, providers/programs, and consumers from around the country and the world

Creating Communities of Change

The literature is replete with research and studies on the vulnerabilities and risks of youth experiencing homelessness. It is estimated that between 20 and 40% of youth experiencing homelessness self-identify as a sexual or gender minority. Yet, very few programs exists that are culturally and linguistically prepared to serve the depth and breath of needs experienced by this marginalized population. Building from the evidence based literature and three years of field research, this workshop will present a PowerPoint presentation developed by the Center for Social Innovation, SAMHSA's Homelessness Resource Center and Dr. Seth Ammerman at Stanford University to better train homelessness service providers. Through case discussion, small group forums, and PP presentation, the workshop will explore ways that participants can use the Community of Practice model to train staff in their agencies to better acquire the knowledge and skills to serve youth experiencing homelessness who self-identify as LGBTQ.

Download SAMHSA's presentation slides

Want to Learn More

For more information about training and consulting through the National Center of Excellence, please contact

1National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH). 2007. Incidence and vulnerability of LGBTQ homeless youth. Youth Homelessness Series Brief No. 2. Washington, DC: Author.

2Ray, Nicholas. (2006). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth: An epidemic of homelessness. National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute and National Coalition for the Homeless: Washington, DC.

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LGBT Youth

LGBT Youth

Project Highlights

The Center for Social Innovation has trained hundreds of people about the needs of LGBT youth who experience homelessness. Trainings take place through regional and national conferences, onsite technical assistance, and webcasts.

Additional Information

  1. National Recommended Best Practices: A document developed with expertise and influence from a number of leading organizations in LGBT work across the country. The document outlines "Best Practices" for serving LGBT youth experiencing homelessness. The document is one of the only Best Practice recommendation documents available to homeless service providers.
  2. Center for American Progress: A well crafted document that outlines the role of government in seeking creative solutions for youth experiencing homelessness and self identifying as LGBT.
  3. HRC Expert Panel Summary of Proceedings: A document developed by a team at C4 under a grant from the SAMHSA Homelessness Resource Center (HRC). This Summary of Proceedings document reflects a meeting of academic, clinical and service delivery experts from around the U.S. on the state of "LGBTQ homeless youth care and advocacy."
  4. HRC LGBT Listening Tour: This document represents the culmination of a year long project to better understand the service delivery needs of programs working with youth experiencing homelessness and identifying as a gender and sexual minority. Recommendations from the Listening Tour document have helped to shape the Center of Excellence developed between the Ali Forney Center (AFC) and the Center for Social Innovation (C4).
  5. AFC and C4 Center of Excellence: A prospectus document for the collaborative Center of Excellence between the Ali Forney Center (AFC) and the Center for Social Innovation (C4).