Last week the LGBTQ2S Youth Housing and Shelter Guidelines were released. Our Manager of Clinical Services and Program Supports, Renee Iverson, was the co-chair of the working group that brought these Guidelines to fruition. These Guidelines provide a sustainable framework and the tools for those engaged with LGBTQ2S youth that do not dismiss or camouflage the excellent work that is already being done in Alberta. Instead, they provide an opportunity to reflect on current practice and make changes where applicable and needed.
Renee shared at the launch why this work is so important:
“What is Pride? For this lesbian, it means transparency in who I am and who I love. It means I can be genuine in who I am. This does not mean I’m not sometimes fearful of those with homophobia on the tip of their tongue or at the end of their fist. However, what Pride tells me is that there is the presence of a strong vibrant community and allies that are here for support. The LGBTQ2S Youth Housing and Shelter Guidelines provide a formal extension of this support to our youth.”
Youth homelessness is a real and pressing problem in Alberta. LGBTQ2S youth face higher rates of homelessness, mental health, and suicide than those youth not considered LGBTQ2S. It is estimated LGBTQ2S youth make up around a third of homeless youth in Alberta and that they face significantly higher rates of discrimination and violence in shelters than those who do not identify as LGBTQ2S. Moreover, youth who identify as LGBTQ2S have higher rates of suicidality than the general population.
Recognizing the need to address this, the Government of Alberta and contributing community partners created the provincial publication Supporting Health and Successful Transitions to Adulthood: A Plan to Prevent and Reduce Youth Homelessness, which identified innovative approaches and specific gaps in support for youth.
One of the gaps identified was the need for a response that reflected the unique needs of youth who identify as LGBTQ2S. The experience of coming out is different for every person, but the need to be genuine in one’s own skin is universal. However, the act of being genuine for those who identify as LGBTQ2S can be difficult. It makes things considerably worse when family and friends don’t support youth at the most vulnerable time of their life. When a youth’s support system is not there, services and resources must work quickly to put supports in place.
Dr. Alex Abramovich, from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is a recognized leader in the area of LGBTQ2S youth homelessness. His assessment of the need for unique strategies and responses outlined in the Plan to Prevent and Reduce Youth Homelessness led to the recommendations found in his report A Focused Response to Prevent and End LGBTQ2S Homelessness.
From here, the LGBTQ2S Youth Homelessness Working Group was formed. This group included representation from Government of Alberta, organizations working with youth, and front-line workers providing direct support to youth.
“These guidelines are the result of collaborative efforts across the province from those focused on ending youth homelessness in Alberta. By having the voices of so many partners involved in the process, we now have a sustainable framework and the tools to equip those working with LGBTQ2S youth to eliminate barriers and create paths to move youth forward” shares Renee.
You can download the Guidelines here.