Document Type



LGBT youth are at an escalated risk of leaving home, mental health concerns, victimization, substance abuse, and risky sexual behavior. However, research shows a lack of LGBT-specific resources. This raises concern as LGBT youth comprise 20 to 40 percent of homeless youth – disproportionate to the general youth population which is only 10 percent LGBT. The purpose of this research was to gain a deeper understanding of the experiences of LGBT homeless youth in Boston, Massachusetts regarding their use of resources and any potential barriers they may face. Furthermore, this study examined whether or not current resources are safe, welcoming and productive for LGBT homeless youth. Data were collected using a semi-structured interview guide at a drop-in center for homeless youth, located in Cambridge, MA. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, and analyzed for themes. Findings indicate that LGBT youth tend to become homeless as a result of being runaway, throwaway, or systems youth. Then, guidance toward resources is gained from peers on the street or “systems referrals”, with an overwhelming majority being peer referrals. Drop-in centers were found to be the most viable and effective resource in comparison to shelters. Participants reported that accessing resources was difficult for them due to their identification as LGBT youth. Reported barriers included: disrespect, lack of comfort, differential treatment, judgment, staff conduct, and safety concerns and were categorized as either program-level, staff-related, or peer-related barriers. The concern is that LGBT youth are left to struggle with the stress, frustration, and anger associated with being both homeless as well as being LGBT. Wherein, the cycle of homelessness is not broken and homeless LGBT youth are at risk of walking away from resources and/or giving up all together. This study implies that all current resources need to become as safe, welcoming, and productive as possible so as to better serve this vulnerable population and modifications need to happen on all levels, including: direct practice, programming, and policy.


Social Work

Thesis Comittee

Kathleen Bailey (Thesis Director)

Arnna Alcon

Jong Tan

Beverly Lovett

Copyright and Permissions

Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.

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