18 9 / 2013
Few bright spots in Canada when it comes to adequate services
A doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto is pushing for the creation of shelters specifically tailored to the needs of queer and trans homeless youth, who are estimated to represent nearly half of Ottawa’s homeless youth.
Alex Abramovich has studied homelessness for the past seven years and is currently completing his dissertation on the subject. He says the most prevalent factor explaining homelessness among queer and trans youth is the homophobia and transphobia they face within their families.
Family conflict is “the pathway that leads most youth into homelessness,” Abramovich says, and when youth come out as queer or trans this conflict can escalate.
“They are either forced to leave home or they have no other choice but to leave because the abuse becomes so unbearable. I’ve spoken to a lot of youth who didn’t report histories of family conflict … they came out and then the conflict began. Homophobia and transphobia cause homelessness.”
In Abramovich’s research study “No Fixed Address: Young, Queer and Restless,” he writes that staff at shelters across the country said they were shocked when they learned no shelters specifically for queer and trans youth exist.
This realization initially shocked Abramovich as well.
“Here in Toronto, which is a place that a lot of youth migrate to, we just have a few evening programs that happen once a week for a few hours. Those programs are amazing, they are really great, but it’s not a safe place to sleep at night,” he says. “It’s not a place where youth can go if they need to get out of a home or if they are experiencing homophobia or transphobia in the shelter system.”
Abramovich would like to see additional trainingfor shelter staff on how to serve queer and trans youth, but says changing attitudes in shelters will take years and homeless queer youth need housing now.
Shelters that employ queer or trans staff are seen as more welcoming to queer youth, who see themselves reflected in service providers, he notes.
However, many of the youth he interviewed also said they don’t feel part of the queer community.“There is no community, they don’t feel welcome. They spoke a lot about feeling objectified and I guess abused by older people in the community. The absence of community, that was something that was really surprising to me,” Abramovich says.
Although not a shelter specifically for queer and trans youth, Ottawa’s Youth Services Bureau (YSB) offers sex-segregated emergency housing for those between the ages of 12 and 20.
YSB’s youth shelters feature separate showers and single rooms, which is unique, says executive director Joanne Lowe.
“That assists everybody, not just youth who present in a particular way,” says Lowe, who also agrees that shelters specifically for queer and trans youth would be beneficial.
“Our practises are embedded in ongoing training. I think one of the unique things that has helped us in particular is the youth themselves,” Lowe says. “We have a very strong practice and a very strong value of asking youth and inviting youth to tell us what they need, and try to move that into how we evolve our own services.”
Abramovich points to the YSB, the 519 and Toronto’s Sherbourne Health Centre as organizations that are making progress towards better serving homeless queer and trans youth.
28 8 / 2013
Take a look at Campus Pride’s top 25 LGBT-friendly colleges and universities.
And then head to one of Campus Pride’s college fairs! They’re hosted across the country over the next few months and each also features resources and workshops on scholarships, financial aid and SAT/ACT consulting.
via Campus Pride