Agency staff conduct assessments during initial intake sessions and subsequent meetings with youth to determine immediate needs, detail personal circumstances, and identify risk factors or barriers that may need to be addressed through longer-term services. Assessment tools used by some agencies inquire about sexual orientation and gender identity, but no agencies reported using tools that specifically target LGBTQ youth. Some staff reported that they assess needs or circumstances related to LGBTQ identity based on their own knowledge of these issues and techniques for exploring them with clients.
Many staff felt that homeless youth face similar types of risks, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Nevertheless, some types of risks—emotional distress and poor mental health, substance abuse and sexual risk behavior, and problems with family and personal relationships—were perceived to be particularly salient or frequent among LGBTQ youth. According to staff reports, LGBTQ youth of color and transgender youth are at the highest risk of encountering barriers to accessing appropriate services or resources, especially those related to health and employment. Staff also perceived some distinctive protective factors among LGBTQ youth. In particular, LGBTQ youth may be “survivors” who develop positive self-protection skills after experiencing stigma and rejection.