One in five homeless youth in Toronto identify as LGBTQ, according to the city’s most recent street needs assessment, which has led one person to ask council for a shelter and safe space specifically for LGBTQ youth who often face discrimination in the current system.
Alex Abramovich, a research coordinator with the Centre for Research on Inner City Health at St. Michael's Hospital, has spent eight years studying the issue and has proposed a shelter exclusively for their use due to what he calls the “normalized oppression” that occurs in the general shelter system.
“It’s come to be expected that the shelter system is homophobic and transphobic so LGBTQ youth will frequently avoid the shelter systems and find themselves in situations such as sleeping on a park bench or in alleyways,” Abramovich told Metro Morning’s Matt Galloway Tuesday.
Teal-Rose Jaques came forward to say her time in various shelters was difficult as she was forced to reside on the men’s floor during her transitions and given male clothing. Although many shelters she described have since changed their policies for transgender people, the LGBTQ community says it still faces many forms of discrimination including the abuse hurled at them by other shelter occupants.
Abramovich, who is also now part of the City of Toronto Shelter Operations's working group, said growing up in Toronto he’d always been interested in the visible — yet often “invisible” — issue of homelessness. And finally, during his own “challenging” coming out period, he realized how easy it was to become homeless as a youth if one lacked the support network they were hoping to have.
He’s pushing for the creation of an LGBTQ shelter which he said is “an emergency response to an emergency situation” until larger systemic issues can be addressed.
Toronto city council will give an update on work being done to develop more options for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness as well as offer recommendations on future work Tuesday afternoon.