John Howard Society looking to open Regina's first transition house for at-risk LGBTQ2S youth
There is currently one transition house in the province for at-risk LGBTQ2S youth
The Regina branch of the John Howard Society of Saskatchewan has applied for federal government funding to open Regina's first transitional house for at-risk youth who identify as LGBTQ2S — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit.
Lorne Gill is a case worker with the John Howard Society of Saskatchewan in the supported living program.
He says Regina needs a place that can provide support and resources catered for youth who identify as LGBTQ2 who are homeless or experiencing violence.
He says shelters in Regina are accepting of people who identify as LGBTQ2S, however, many of them are unable to provide some of the necessary resources for LGBTQ2S people who are homeless.
"Our hope is to put an emphasis on a peer-based model in the house, so to hire people who have lived experience of homelessness, maybe they fall under [LGBTQ2S] population as well," said Gill.
Gill says people who identify as LGBTQ2S and are homeless can face increased risk because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
"Homeless youth in this population face much higher levels of sexual harassment, higher levels of teen pregnancy, dating violence, they are higher risk for sex work, and in consequence have a higher, increased rate of contracting things like HIV, and other STIs," said Gill.
"I've worked with a number of youth who are, perhaps, not street homeless, but they're in precarious housing or unsafe housing due to their gender identity or sexual orientation," he added.
There is only one transitional house in the province for LGBTQ2S youth, according to Gill, which is in Saskatoon.
House will provide safety for those facing intimate partner violence
Another reason for the transition house, says Gill, is the often underreported intimate partner violence that some LGBTQ2S people face.
Gill says the John Howard Society of Saskatchewan, Regina chapter, recently conducted a survey with 13 youths they work with who identify as LGBTQ2S, of which 62 per cent reported experiencing gender-based violence within their intimate partner relationships, and 46 per cent reported knowing someone in the LGBTQ2S community who has experienced intimate partner violence.
The transition house would also help at-risk LGBTQ2S youth navigate the legal system, as well as connect them with healthcare services and mental health resources.
"Mental health and mental wellness will be a huge focus for these kids, and we hope that in creating this home that we can prevent some of [those] mental health issues from coming up in their lives," said Gill.
Gill says another focus of the house is to provide LGBTQ2S youth with a supportive community and to give them a sense of belonging.
Gill says they have already secured a house for the initiative, but need funding to help cover operational costs such as staffing and additional resources before the transition house can open.