Identifying and Serving LGBTQ Youth: Case Studies of Runaway and Homeless Youth Program Grantees. Executive Summary


Some government and private organizations are interested in improving services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth who run away from home or experience homelessness. These efforts are prompted, in part, by research suggesting LGBTQ youth may be at greater risk for experiencing homelessness and, if they become homeless, more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to experience victimization, engage in high-risk sexual behaviors, and have poor mental health.

To better understand provider experiences serving LGBTQ runaway and homeless youth (RHY), the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in collaboration with the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) in HHS’s Administration for Children and Families (ACF), sponsored case studies of four local agencies receiving grants from ACF’s RHY Program. The purpose of the study, conducted by Mathematica and its subcontractor, the Williams Institute, was to learn about programs’ strategies for identifying and serving LGBTQ RHY, the challenges programs face in understanding and addressing the needs of this population, and potential areas for future research.

The four study sites are federally funded RHY programs that provide a range of services, operate in different regions of the country, and have experience serving LGBTQ youth. They include agencies with urban and rural service areas in Colorado, Minnesota, Ohio, and Texas. One agency receives RHY Program funding for basic center services, two for transitional living, and two for street outreach. The share of clients identified as LGBTQ ranges from 5 to 28 percent.

Drawing on site visit interviews as well as reviews of agency documents and forms, this report presents findings on four topics: (1) agencies’ collection and use of data on clients’ sexual orientation and gender identity, (2) providers’ assessment and perceptions of needs and capacities among LGBTQ RHY, (3) providers’ approaches to serving LGBTQ RHY, and (4) providers’ perceptions of research gaps and data needs related to services for LGBTQ RHY. We conclude by suggesting issues for policymakers and practitioners to consider related to collecting data on, and serving, this population.

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