LGBTQ+ people, more specifically youth, are silently struggling as COVID-19 rearranges every inch of our society. The safe spaces they used to frequent are no longer open, the resources they once had access to are increasingly harder to come across, and their independence is waning due to loss of employment and housing. The rates of homelessness within the LGBTQ+ community skyrocketed during the pandemic. As of January 2021, more than 40% of the nation’s homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+ according to North Jersey News. This issue is especially prevalent in low-income communities as well as marginalized communities where economic inequality also aligns with environmental and social disparities.
According to North Jersey News, individuals in the LGBTQ+ community are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than their straight/cis counterparts. This is usually due to a wide variety of reasons such as unstable home environments brought on by unaccepting family members, inadequate access to safe secondary housing, job inequality, income inequality due to gender/sexuality discrimination, and the lack of resources that aid in mental and physical health. All of these issues were exacerbated when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Stay-at-home orders forced LGBTQ+ people, specifically LGBTQ+ youth, back into unsafe living conditions. This led to an increase in individuals turning to high-risk housing situations or the streets. People within the LGBTQ+ community often avoid shelters as these places are not usually considered safe, especially for nonbinary/trans/genderfluid people. Before the pandemic, universities had been safe havens for LGBTQ+ individuals, as they provided resources and a supportive community to students. However, many people were forced back into traumatic or abusive spaces as college campuses shut down during COVID-19.
This led to environments that are particularly risky for members of the LGBTQ+ community as they headed back to unaccepting family homes, which is the reality for many. A study conducted by the peer-reviewed Psychological Trauma Journal has shown that one-third of LGBTQ+ youth have experienced some form of parental rejection. For many people, the environment we reside in can have either positive or negative effects on all aspects of our well-being. Unfortunately, people within the LGBTQ+ community oftentimes struggle with many different complex issues that affect their ability to have safe and happy living situations.
The rise in LGBTQ+ homelessness due to COVID-19 is not a surprise, but it is incredibly disheartening. There is a need for better funding for government programs that can create safe secondary housing, easy to access resources and services, and more effective healthcare. This is crucial especially in minority communities that are most often overlooked and under-supported. We also need to make sure that we personally invest in our own communities. Creating safe spaces and openly available resources for LGBTQ+ youth and adults, especially in conservative areas around the United States where LGBTQ+ communities need it most.