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Scourge of homelessness adds to hardships for LGBT youth

GENEVA (9 August 2019) – On the occasion of International Youth Day, the UN’s Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, call on States to urgently adopt measures to address discriminatory practices against LGBT youth with respect to housing. They issue the following statement:

“As a result of religious and cultural intolerance that may include sexual and other forms of violence, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse (LGBT) youth around the world face socio-economic exclusion, including from within their own homes and communities, and family disapproval and punishment can force them to leave home, which renders them more vulnerable to yet more violence and discrimination, a factor that is compounded with their age and economic dependence and reliance on family and community networks. This explains why LGBT youth are overrepresented in populations experiencing homelessness and why, once homeless, they experience additional discriminations.

Homelessness can further result as a consequence of other forms of exclusion from fundamental human rights. At school many LGBT youth suffer bullying, which results in drop-out rates that are higher than the average and has severe long-term consequences to their life project. LGBT youth are less likely to have the education levels and skills to find employment and reach economic security, which on the other hand affects their opportunity to find adequate housing.

The impact of such a grave situation of exclusion cannot be underestimated, with one recent study finding that almost two-thirds of LGBT youth experiencing homelessness had grappled with mental health issues, and studies suggest they are more likely to report depression, bipolar disorder and suicidal ideation and attempts. They are also less likely to have access to healthcare, and are extremely vulnerable to alcohol and drug abuse.

Under international human rights law and in keeping with the Sustainable Development Goals, States have an immediate obligation to implement the right to housing and effectively address homelessness. States must take immediate steps to address, as a matter of priority, the underlying structural causes of homelessness towards its elimination by 2030. Within that context, the measures adopted by national and local governments must prevent LGBT youth from becoming homeless, ensure that housing policies and programmes be inclusive of LGBT persons and address the needs of LGBT youth.”

International Youth Day is observed on 12 August. A full version of the statement can be read here.

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