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Tackling the #1 Social Determinant of Health: Homelessness - An LGBTQ+ Epidemic


For the LGBTQ+ community, social determinants of health (SDoH) play a major role in their health outcomes. Lack of family and social support, discrimination, mental health, violence, and healthcare access are barriers that are often a reality. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I was lucky enough to grow up in a loving and supportive environment. Many of my LGBTQ+ friends and acquaintances did not have that same luxury. Seeing how they suffered has been a driving force behind my desire to spread this important message.   

The federal government reports that 1.5 million people a year experience homelessness, while other estimates put the number at twice that. Homelessness leads to increased mortality, chronic health conditions, mental illness, substance use, and risky health behaviors. The average homeless person visits the ER five times yearly, costing an estimated $18,500 annually.  

For members of the LGBTQ+ community, the statistics are staggeringly worse. LGBTQ+ youth often experience rejection from families and may be kicked out of or escape their homes due to non-acceptance or abuse. Members of this community are twice as likely as the general population to have experienced homelessness in their lifetime. Considering that 9.5% of the U.S. population identifies as LGBTQ+, the fact that Up to 40% of the 4.2 million youth experiencing homelessness are from this community is shocking. 28% of LGBTQ youth experience homelessness or housing instability at some point in their lives. That 28% are two to four times more likely to report depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and attempt suicide compared to those with stable housing. Even higher rates of homelessness and housing instability are reported among transgender and nonbinary youth, including 38% of transgender girls/women, 39% of transgender boys/men, and 35% of nonbinary youth, compared to 23% of cisgender LGBQ youth.  

Homeless LGBTQ+ also face immense stigma when seeking services and are more likely to engage in substance abuse as a coping mechanism or engage in survival sex work. These issues, coupled with escalating targeted violence and hate crimes, make addressing these barriers critical. 

Many of you reading this already volunteer or support your communities in some way. In honor of Pride month, may I ask that you volunteer or attend an event that supports LGBTQ+ and those struggling with homelessness?  

Please take a moment to learn more about ways you can truly show support for this vulnerable population. 

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