Pictured above: Dr. Abramovich (left) outside the CAMH Mobile Research Lab at a York Region Pride event
By Sean O’Malley
More than three in four LGBTQ2S homeless youth in Ontario’s York Region have overdosed in the last year and almost four in ten have attempted suicide, highlighting the need for better services and supports according to a new study.
The study, “Understanding LGBTQ2S Youth Homelessness in York Region,” was conducted by Dr. Alex Abramovich, CAMH, was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and is one of the first to explore LGBTQ2S youth homelessness in suburban and semi-rural areas.
“Youth homelessness is often conceptualized as a ‘big city’ problem that only exists in major Canadian cities,” writes lead author Dr. Abramovich, Independent Scientist at the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research. “The limited research on rural youth homeless in Canada suggests that there are unique challenges and barriers associated with youth homelessness in small towns and rural settings.”
Based on extensive interviews with 33 youth between the ages of 13 and 26 and nine employees from organizations serving youth in the region, the study provides a “snapshot” of the lives of LGBTQ2S homeless youth, often in their own words.
Among the findings:
- 77 per cent said they had overdosed in the past year
- 74 per cent said they had self-harmed
- 45 per cent said they were victims of physical or sexual violence
- 39 per cent attempted suicide
“My (mom) said that I make her sick to her stomach,” said one 16-year-old study participant. “It was heartbreaking and I didn’t feel safe at home. So that’s when I left.”
“I’m more comfortable telling people about my heroin addiction than I am telling people I’m gay,” said another. “I’ve been stabbed, I’ve been shot…I’ve experienced people lashing out badly to the point where I’m very careful with who I tell.”
The study includes a list of recommendations on how to better serve LGBTQ2S youth, including developing an inclusive standardized model of service delivery as well as specialized housing and mental health services for LGBTQ2S youth, system navigation supports, travel subsidies and better staff training.
“Every young person should be able to safely access support and services, especially the most marginalized. It is my hope that policy makers and service providers take action immediately and respond to the serious issues that have been identified in this study,” said Dr. Abramovich.
To access the full study, click here.