The LGBTQ2S+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit, plus) community in Canada faces unique challenges when it comes to housing.
While progress has been made, many members of the LGBTQ2S+ community continue to face discrimination, especially when accessing a safe, suitable and affordable place to call home.
People who identify as LGBTQ2S+ have housing needs that are different from those of other Canadians. They need to consider how their housing will:
- affect their access to social or medical services
- allow them to be part of an inclusive and welcoming community
Homelessness, youth and the LGBTQ2S+ community
Historically, LGBTQ2S+ Canadians have accounted for a disproportionately large percentage of Canadians who are:
- at risk of becoming homeless
- in core housing need
This is especially true for members of at-risk groups who are also members of the LGBTQ2S+ community. These groups include youth, seniors, Indigenous people, newcomers, or people with mental health or addiction issues.
LGBTQ2S+ youth may be the most vulnerable members of the community. As a result, their housing challenges are often the greatest. According to the most recent research, approximately 10% of the Canadian population identifies as LGBTQ2S+. By some estimates, LGBTQ2S+ youth make up between 25% and 40% of homeless youth in Canada.1
That means that nearly 1 out of every 3 homeless young people in Canada identifies as LGBTQ2S+.
Compared to the general population, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Canada are also2:
- 7 times more likely to abuse drugs or other substances
- 5 times more likely to have mental health issues
- 5 times more likely to attempt suicide
- 2 times as likely to experience severe poverty and homelessness
Why housing is so important
Many experts believe the reason for LGBTQ2S+ homelessness is discrimination. First at home, then from society when trying to do things like access suitable housing.
For example, far too many LGBTQ2S+ youth are forced to leave home after “coming out” to their families. Once alone and on the streets, they face additional discrimination finding work, accessing education and securing a safe place to live.
Homelessness also increases the risks of substance abuse, violence, prostitution, physical and psychological illnesses, and suicide.
Fear of encountering homophobia, transphobia or other forms of oppression cause LGBTQ2S+ homeless people to avoid shelters. This means that they can’t access services and support that could help them get off the streets and into more permanent housing.3
By addressing housing issues, we can help alleviate this homelessness and support a wide range of other health and social goals. From education and employment to overall levels of health, happiness, productivity and well-being, accessible housing provides a better quality of life.
All levels of government are working with private, non-profit and community partners across Canada. They are leading initiatives that address housing needs of LGBTQ2S+ Canadians. For example: