Statement of Need
LGBTQA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual) youth occupy an overwhelming percentage of homeless youth on the streets today, often due to family conflict related to their sexual orientation and/or bullying and discrimination at school. In 2010, the number of homeless youth in the United States was estimated at 1.6 million to 2.8 million. Of this number, up to 40 percent identify as LGBTQA+. However, less than five percent of government funding for homeless assistance programs is allocated for homeless children and youth, and is even less for unaccompanied homeless youth.
These youth have pressing needs that put them even more at-risk than other homeless youth. Harsh circumstances on the street are often magified for LGBTQA+ youth as they face discrimination, violence, and poor health. LGBTQA+ youth from highly rejecting families are at far higher risk than other young adults for major health and mental health problems. They are more than three times as likely to be involved in survival sex work and/or unprotected sex than non-LGBTQA+ peers, putting them at higher risk for HIV and STDs. In addition, homeless LGBTQA+ youth are coming out at younger ages than in the past, usually in the mid-teen years. This makes it more likely they will become homeless younger, and thus even more vulnerable on the streets. Federal grant awards for homeless youth services often do not include anti-discrimination policies for sexual orientation and gender identity, leaving youth vulnerable to harassment from staff and other residents and thus more likely to reject their services.
Libraries, as a hub for free access to cultural, informational, educational, and community resources, have been recognized as existing resources from which to launch new initiatives for LGBTQA+ homeless youth. In fact, many of these youth often do frequent public libraries, using them as a respite from the world as well as to access the Internet and other resources: to read, find employment, contact family, or socialize with other youth. The library also serves as a major information resource for those youth who feel marginalized and are attempting to find themselves represented in literature. In many cases, a rift exists between these youth and library personnel: library staff may hold negative views toward the youth or see them as "problem patrons", and the youth may maintain invisibility, rarely engaging with staff from a mistrust of those they view as authority figures. Training is an ongoing necessity to achieve the expertise needed to create and administer adequate support services, yet many libraries struggle to find the time and resources for staff training.