People who work with youth in Calgary say more has to be done to help young homeless adults who are lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender and queer (LGBTQ).
Front-line workers and experts from across Canada met for a two-day symposium sponsored by Wood's Homes that wraps up Thursday.
Dr. April Elliott, an adolescent medicine specialist with the Alberta Children's Hospital, says LGBTQ youth face more barriers when it comes to accessing services for medical and mental health issues.
“When they do access health care, they feel that the practitioners aren't culturally competent,” she said.
“So they don't ask the right questions. And they already feel discriminated against because they are homeless, but added to that they are LGBTQ.”
Elliott started the Calgary Adolescent Treatment Society as a one-stop shop for youth seeking treatment. It has a clinic where patients don't need a doctors' referral, provincial health cards or a permanent address.
Research suggests that as many as 40 per cent of homeless youth in Canada are gay or transgendered and that they are eight times more likely to commit suicide.
Alex Abramovich, a leading researcher from Toronto, said it’s an emergency situation.
“LGBTQ members need safe beds. We do have shelters across the country but often they are homophobic or transphobic.”
Abramovich said there are some simple steps to making shelters more accessible for the LGBTQ youth — things like having gender-neutral bathrooms and rainbow stickers on outreach literature.