Identifying and Serving LGBTQ Youth: Case Studies of Runaway and Homeless Youth Program Grantees. Avenues for Homeless Youth


Mission Avenues for Homeless Youth seeks to help youth achieve their personal goals and make a positive transition into young adulthood by providing emergency shelter, short-term housing, and supportive services for homeless youth in a safe and nurturing environment.
Services/Programs Emergency shelter and transitional living, including three host-home programs
Service Area Metropolitan Minneapolis, Minnesota
Target Population(s) RHY ages 16 to 21
Annual Budget Total budget in FY 2011–2012 was $1.02 million; in 2012, Avenues received $175,000 in federal RHY program funding for transitional living
Number of Youth Served Annually 157 youth across all programs in FY 2011–2012; 132 youth through shelter and transitional housing programs and 15 youth through the GLBT Host Home Program
Percentage of Youth Identifying as LGBTQ 25 percent lesbian, gay, or bisexual; 2 to 3 percent transgender (based on staff estimate)
Organizational Strategies for Serving LGBTQ Youth

Avenues has implemented the following organizational strategies:

  • Nondiscrimination/nonharassment policy. Avenues has written policies that are inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity and communicates these policies to both clients and staff.
  • Protection of confidentiality. Agency policies prioritize maintenance of confidentiality of personal information. Staff reported that personal information about youth is not shared outside the agency unless there is a legal requirement to do so.
  • Cultural competency training. The agency offers regular trainings to develop culturally competent practices (including LGBTQ cultural competency) among employees. Issues related to cultural competency are addressed informally during discussions among staff and youth.
  • Connections to LGBTQ organizations. Avenues maintains partnerships with other organizations serving LGBTQ youth in its area, including the Trans Youth Support Network (an advocacy organization), YouthLink (a provider serving homeless youth), and the YMCA (a provider of mentoring and sexual health education programs).
Services Tailored for LGBTQ Youth

Avenues tailors several services to address the needs of LGBTQ youth:

  • Physical health. Avenues refers youth to a local health provider when the youth have need of gender transition-related health care. The agency also offers on-site testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Mental health. Mental health professionals on staff are able to assist LGBTQ youth who present with concerns about sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Emergency shelter. Youth who are not comfortable in male or female dorms can access private accommodation (a single-bed room) on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Transitional living. Youth are served according to their self-reported gender identity. If there are concerns for a youth’s safety or well-being, the youth can be offered private space in the housing program. The agency also makes accommodations related to access to bathroom facilities, particularly for transgender youth. In addition, Avenues offers a host home program specifically for LGBT-identified homeless youth.
  • Employment. Staff seek to connect clients with community volunteer and employment opportunities that are welcoming of LGBTQ youth.

Sources: Agency documents and discussions with staff during site visit in May 2013.

FY = fiscal year; LGBTQ = lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning; RHY = runaway and homeless youth.

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