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March/April 2014 Issue

Project Aims to End LGBT Youths’ Homelessness
By Brandi Redding
Social Work Today
Vol. 14 No. 2 P. 8

Runaways. Throwaways. Systems youths.

Each year, between 500,000 and 2.8 million youths in the United States are homeless, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This population includes runaways, who have left home without parental permission; throwaways, who have been forced to leave home by their parents; and street youths, who have spent at least some time living on the streets, as well as systems youths who become homeless after aging out of foster care or exiting the juvenile justice system.

Of these youths, research suggests that up to 40% identify as LGBT. Considering that only 3% to 5% of the U.S. population identifies as LGBT, this represents a disproportionate rate of homelessness among this group (Ray, 2006).

Unfortunately, a primary cause of teen homelessness is family conflict. And in studies, LGBT teens were more likely than heterosexual youths to leave home as a result of physical abuse (Cochran, Stewart, Ginzler, & Cauce, 2002), and 43% of LGBT youths were forced by their parents to leave home because of their orientation or gender identity (Durso & Gates, 2012).

Once on the street, LGBT youths are at a greater risk of physical or sexual victimization, substance abuse, depression, loneliness, and psychosomatic illness (Cochran et al., 2002; Ray, 2006). The same discrimination that put them on the streets continues to stigmatize them, making them a vulnerable population.

The Forty to None Project aims to help them.

Keeping Kids Off the Streets
Created by the True Colors Fund, the Forty to None Project is a national organization dedicated to raising awareness about and bringing an end to homelessness among LGBT youths. The program’s name comes from its goal to take the percentage of LGBT youths experiencing homelessness from 40% to none.

“If we really want to solve this problem, we are going to have to work together,” says Jama Shelton, LMSW, PhD, director of the Forty to None Project. To do that, the project launched the Forty to None Network in late November 2013 and, by mid-December, had grown to more than 200 members representing 31 states, the District of Columbia, and two Canadian provinces.

“We created the Forty to None Network in response to the feedback we’ve received from people around the country working on LGBT youth homelessness: that there is a missing consolidated, national network to facilitate the sharing of ideas and action,” Shelton says.

The network works to disseminate relevant information, including research and emerging practices, to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration and build a cross-system movement of individuals actively involved in LGBT youth homelessness or individuals whose work could potentially impact the issue.

“The network will allow individuals in this field to share resources, promising practices, and expertise on effective strategies to reduce LGBT youth homelessness,” says Alan Dettlaff, PhD, MSW, an associate professor at Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “This will help to build the capacity of homeless youth providers by strengthening their services and supports to meet the needs of LGBT youth experiencing homelessness.”

Those in social services, public policy, research, child welfare, juvenile justice, and education would be ideal for joining the project. Members will not only learn from others in the network, but there’s the opportunity for them to share their knowledge.

How It Works
Each month, network members receive an e-newsletter covering three topics: “In the Know,” which provides information such as legislative updates or recent research; “On the Ground,” which highlights a specific program or community engaged in ending LGBT youth homelessness; and “At the Table,” which provides opportunities for networking.

“The network has provided a number of resources and tools that I have used to inform the work I’m doing,” Dettlaff says. “I am currently leading a national research project that is designed to build the capacity of transitional living programs to address the needs of LGBT youths experiencing homelessness. As part of this project, being a member of the Forty to None Network has been helpful in learning about strategies and tools being used across the country to address this problem.”

As the network grows and receives feedback from its members, it will expand its offerings, possibly to include interactive webinars, Google Hangouts, regional gatherings, publications, and campaigns. The group would like to hear from social workers about what will assist them in performing their jobs and helping these teens. This feedback could potentially shape the content of the newsletters and deliver useful information to social workers across the nation.

“The Forty to None Network will give social workers the opportunity to learn from others in this field as well as share their stories and successes in working with this population,” Dettlaff says. “Social workers have a wealth of wisdom based on their experiences working directly with LGBT youths experiencing homelessness. As a result, they can provide very valuable information to others working in this field to increase their knowledge and skills in addressing this issue.”

Because of the project’s focus, the network includes the many diverse sectors that touch the lives of these youths, “each of whom bring different experiences and perspectives to addressing the needs of LGBT youths,” Dettlaff adds. This will allow for knowledge that social workers may assume is widespread to be shared among the different branches involved in this issue. It also enables information—and assumptions—to be challenged and roadblocks to be opened.

“That’s why the Forty to None Network is so important,” said network member Barbara Poppe, executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, in a press release. “By working across sectors and in coalition with other organizations and agencies, Forty to None provides leadership and energy to help end the crisis of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth homelessness.”

To sign up for the Forty to None Network, visit http://fortytonone.org/network.

— Brandi Redding is the assistant editor of Social Work Today.


Federal Grant to Address LGBTQ Youth Homelessness
The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) has received a $900,000 federal grant to address homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) youths.

The three-year grant, from the Family and Youth Services Bureau of the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will fund the 3/40 BLUEPRINT, a collaborative project of the UIC, the Center for the Study of Social Policy, and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. The grant will enable the researchers to study promising practices, training methods, and tools to address the needs of LGBTQ homeless youths.

“LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness are at increased risk of victimization, substance abuse, and suicide,” says Alan Dettlaff, PhD, MSW, an associate professor in the Jane Addams College of Social Work and the grant’s principal investigator. “This project will help to build the capacity of runaway and homeless youth providers to better understand and address the needs of LGBTQ youth and prevent these poor outcomes.”

National studies estimate that up to 40% of homeless youths identify as LGBTQ and also are disproportionately youths of color. The 3/40 BLUEPRINT project is named for its goal: to reduce the 40% within three years and help end the national crisis of LGBTQ youth homelessness, Dettlaff says.

— Source: University of Illinois at Chicago


Cochran, B. N., Stewart, A. J., Ginzler, J. A., & Cauce, A. M. (2002). Challenges faced by homeless sexual minorities: Comparison of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender homeless adolescents with their heterosexual counterparts. American Journal of Public Health, 92, 773–777.

Durso, L. E., & Gates, G. J. (2012). Serving Our Youth: Findings From a National Survey of Service Providers Working With Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth Who Are Homeless or at Risk of Becoming Homeless. Los Angeles: The Williams Institute, True Colors Fund, The Palette Fund.

Ray, N. (2006). Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth: An Epidemic of Homelessness. Washington, DC: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, National Coalition for the Homeless.