Despite having one of the highest GDPs (Gross Domestic Product) in the developed world, the United States is home to the second highest rate of child poverty. Over the years, the number of homeless young people in America has steadily increased. One group, in particular, that’s disproportionately faced with homelessness is LGBT teens — people who are nearly four times more likely than the average heterosexual teen to end up homeless.

Homeless and Runaway Youth — A Growing Epidemic

Any child living unsupervised on the streets, in abandoned buildings, informally with friends, or with strangers, is considered a homeless or runaway youth.

  • 34 percent of the homeless population is below age 24
  • 1 in 7 people between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away from home in their lifetime
  • 75 percent of child and teen runaways are female
  • It’s estimated that the number of pregnant homeless girls is as high as 22 percent
  • Most (75 percent) of homeless youths have dropped out of school or plan to drop out
  • It’s believed that as many as 5,000 homeless or runaway youths die each year as a result of assault, illness, or suicide.

LGBT Youth Homelessness

When compared to the rest of the population, LGBT youth are far more likely to become homeless in their lifetime.

  • Though LGBT youth represent roughly 7 percent of the population, they make up nearly half of the homeless youth population.
  • Researchers believe a conservative estimate of how many LGBT youth face homelessness each year is between 320,000 and 400,000.
  • The average age that a gay or lesbian teen becomes homeless is 14
  • The average age that a transgender teen becomes homeless is 13.5

The Reasons Behind Youth Homelessness

Because LGBT teens are more likely to face familial rejection, abuse, and neglect, their likelihood of becoming homeless is far greater than the average teen.

  • 46 percent of homeless LGBT youth ran away because of family rejection
  • 43 percent of LGBT youth were forced out of their homes by their parents
  • 32 percent left their homes because they suffered physical, emotional, or sexual abuse

Homelessness and Substance Abuse

As a way of dealing with past traumas and the challenges of living on the streets, many homeless youths turn to high-risk activities, like drugs and alcohol.

  • Roughly 80 percent of homeless teens use drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate.
  • When compared to heterosexual homeless teens, LGBT homeless teens were almost twice as likely to abuse alcohol.
  • HIV rates for homeless youths are 3-9 times higher than for the general U.S. population