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LGBTQI youth have more than double the risk of homelessness compared to straight peers

Being homeless is not necessarily because they are LGBTQI, although sexual orientation is usually one factor among many that lead young people to leave home. Other factors that led to homelessness include: family issues such as poverty, mental health problems, substance abuse, loss of a parent due to death or incarceration, being placed in foster care and a family history of homelessness.

In 2016, Outrage Magazine met Avril, a trans woman in Cagayan de Oro City. Not that many people actually knew her by name; instead, locals referred to her as “kanang ga-pangayo ug P55.00 para sa chicken fillet (that one who begs for P55.00 for chicken fillet).”

For a while, Avril “resided” in Divisoria, Cagayan de Oro City’s downtown area. That is, because she was homeless, she was considered a “resident” of the plaza, and there, her means of living was mainly to beg for whatever passersby can give her.

Avril found her way to Divisoria in 2012.

Her family’s home was ravaged by tropical storm Washi (locally known as Bagyong Sendong) in December 2011. And when they moved to a far-flung barangay (village), Avril left them, opting – instead – to join a friend (another trans woman) who lived in the plaza.

For a while there, therefore, Avril became one of the homeless LGBTQI Filipinos, who continue to be under-reported what with data about them remaining scarce, if they exist at all.

Now, a research from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago in the US found that young members of the LGBTQI community are more than twice as likely to become homeless as their straight counterparts.

But get this: their being homeless is not necessarily because they are LGBTQI, although sexual orientation is usually one factor among many that lead young people to leave home. Other major factors that led to homelessness include: family issues such as poverty, mental health problems, substance abuse, loss of a parent due to death or incarceration, being placed in foster care and a family history of homelessness.

Sadly, LGBTQI homeless youth are significantly more likely to face violence, sexual exploitation and early death than their straight peers.

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The American study was based on a phone survey of 26,161 young people in the US about their housing status, as well as interviews with 215 homeless young people ages 13 to 25 who identified as LGBT. The study was part of Voices of Youth Count, an ongoing study of homeless young people in the US.

It is worth noting that the transition to homelessness also does not necessarily happen overnight. Instead, it is often a long process that involves months or years of couch-surfing with friends and extended family.

Those involved in the research said that while the findings may be a “bit grim”, they hope it will hopefully “galvanize communities to help these young people”.

“This is a very resilient population, and many expressed hope that they can rise above their circumstances,” Matthew Morton, principal investigator for the Voices of Youth Count, was quoted as saying. “The message here is really from the youth themselves — if we listen to them and offer help where it’s needed, they can make great progress.”

A similar study has yet to be done in the Philippines, even if stories – such as Avril’s – abound.

Back in CDO, Avril – as of the start of 2018 – Avril already found her footing, getting some support to get off the streets and even return to school. Now if only every homeless LGBTQI people can also find their footing…

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