Identifying and Serving LGBTQ Youth: Case Studies of Runaway and Homeless Youth Program Grantees. Urban Peak


Mission Urban Peak helps youth experiencing homelessness and youth at risk of experiencing homelessness overcome challenges by providing essential services and a supportive community, empowering them to become self-sufficient adults.
Services/Programs Street outreach, drop-in center, emergency shelter for youth ages 15 to 21, education and employment assistance, and transitional and permanent housing
Service Area Denver metropolitan area, Colorado
Annual Budget $4.15 million in FY 2011–2012, including $237,000 in RHY program funding for basic center and street outreach services
Target Population(s) Runaway and homeless youth and youth at risk of becoming homeless, ages 15 to 21
Number of Youth Served Annually 2,550 in FY 2011–2012
Percentage of Youth Identifying as LGBTQ 14.5 percent lesbian, gay, or bisexual and 0.4 percent transgender (as reported in the agency’s FY 2010–2011 annual report)
Services Tailored for LGBTQ Youth

Urban Peak employs a designated LGBTQ case manager who helps connect youth with appropriate services and recreational/social opportunities, including a theater/performance group for LGBTQ youth. The LGBTQ case manager also serves as a resource for other Urban Peak staff members. In addition, the agency tailors the following services:

  • Physical health. Providers working at the shelter clinic and drop-in center are competent regarding LGBTQ health needs. In addition, HIV testing is offered three times per week to all youth at the shelter and drop-in center.
  • Mental health. Urban Peak provides or makes referrals for counseling intended to improve mental health and reduce sexual risk-taking among LGBTQ youth.
  • Emergency shelter. A private room is available for youth not comfortable in either male or female dormitories. Agency policies stipulate that youth who do not clearly identify as male or female are to sleep in the dorm of their choosing and use the bathroom in which they feel safest.
  • Employment. Job developers make efforts to inform potential employers that the organization serves LGBTQ youth issues and identify employers who are LGBTQ-friendly.
Organizational Strategies for Serving LGBTQ Youth

Urban Peak has implemented the following strategies:

  • Safe and inclusive environment. Urban Peak posts “safe zone” signs and other materials relevant to LGBTQ youth in its facilities. Staff promote a safe environment and intervene when they observe instances of harassment.
  • Nondiscrimination/nonharassment policy. The agency has a written nondiscrimination and nonharrassment policy, which stipulates that services can be terminated for a client who harasses others based on LGBTQ identity.
  • Protection of confidentiality. Staff consider information collected from youth to be confidential. Information can be disclosed to partner agencies with a youth’s consent or if the agency is legally required to do so.
  • Staff training/cultural competency. Staff participate in cultural competency training annually. Trainings address procedures for accommodating transgender clients and appropriate language to use with LGBTQ clients (for example, preferred pronouns), among other issues.
  • Connections to LGBTQ organizations. Urban Peak partners with several organizations with LGBTQ expertise, including the Mile High Council, a mental health provider; the Center, an LGBT community organization; and Prax(us), an organization that aims to prevent human trafficking among homeless youth.

Sources: Agency documents and site visit in April 2013.

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

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