Layers of complexity for members of the LGBTQ+ community, experiencing homelessness

It’s June! For many individuals in the LGBTQ+ community, Pride Month is a time for celebrating individualism, self-expression, and identity. It is also a time to reflect on the cultural and community adversities from the past, remembering and showing gratitude to the trailblazers that came before for their sacrifice and determination to fight for equality.

A group of people celebrating a Pride and protesting for housing equality.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies marching for housing equality in New York City in the early 2000s (Photo source: Coalition for the Homeless archives)

But, in and amongst the happy Pride celebrations New York City typically enjoys, it is important to remember that for many members of the community, simply being who they are has rendered them precariously housed or even unsheltered.

A disproportionate number of LGBTQ+ individuals across the United States experience homelessness. Surveys indicate that youth who identify as LGBTQ+ are 2.2 times more likely to experience some form of homelessness in comparison to their non-LGBTQ+ peers. Similarly, 17% of adults who identify as LGBTQ+ have reported experiencing homelessness in their lifetime. These statistics are alarmingly high compared to the general population and certainly not a source of pride.

But while there are various reasons for such high numbers of homelessness among the LGBTQ+ population, there are also numerous resources available for those who may be experiencing it.


A 2017 report published by the University of Chicago found that, across the United States, LGBTQ+ youth had a 120% increased risk of experiencing homelessness compared to youth who identified as heterosexual and cisgender. It is suggested that this stems from a lack of acceptance they experience both in and outside of the home. 

For unhoused LGBTQ+ adults in New York City, the shelter system often fails to adequately support their unique needs. At the outset, they are required to choose a gender-specific shelter which can be particularly problematic for those who are transgender or non-binary. Once inside, LGBTQ+ homeless people encounter discrimination from both shelter residents and service providers which exacerbates the difficulties they face. 

Systemic issues further compound these challenges. Take, for instance, Randall (not his real name), one of the Coalition for the Homeless’ clients who is multiply-marginalized. Randall and his partner began living in the shelter system after the pandemic stripped them of the jobs that were their sole source of income. 

From the moment they sought to enter shelter, they were confronted with a drawn-out eligibility process filled with questions about the validity of their family status. After receiving a shelter placement, they faced further challenges accessing social services, including support from their housing specialist to obtain a housing voucher (essential to secure permanent housing) and assistance with accessing reasonable accommodations.

This discriminatory treatment prolonged their stay in shelter. In fact, Randall faced near-constant prejudice related to his disability, and worrying constantly about being outed as a transgender person and Randall’s partner refrained from sharing their pronouns altogether, out of concern they would face discrimination as a non-binary person. The couple avoided revealing any needs or requests to help with any issues related to their being LGBTQ+, isolating them from the community and removing any opportunity to access targeted resources. 

This pride month, after three years of being in shelter, Randall and his partner, with support from the Coalition’s Advocacy team, finally obtained a housing voucher and thus began their journey out of the shelter system, into suitable, safe, and accessible housing.


For our LGBTQ+ neighbors who are facing homelessness, it is important to know there are resources available. 

Our website includes a transgender guide with items that are also for the wider LGBTQ+ community. Start there to learn your rights, educate yourself on key facts, and find resources that can help.

If you need emergency shelter tailored to LGBTQ+ youth, we recommend the Ali Forney Center. You can call them at 212.206.0574 (ext. 100) or visit their Drop-In Center located at 307 West 38th Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10018.

And finally, you can find a safe space to be yourself at The Center, located at 208 West 13th Street, New York, NY 10011. 

The Coalition for the Homeless is both an advocacy and direct service organization committed to the belief that all New Yorkers deserve a place to call home. Our programs, shelter monitoring, and grassroots advocacy enable us to meet homeless people where they are – giving voice and hope to the most marginalized among us. Our advocacy team is informed by the daily struggles of our unhoused and precariously housed neighbors, and seeks practical, humane, and cost-effective long-term solutions, proven to work. 

If you have a question about accessing shelter or other services, including if you have been denied access to shelter, please call 1-888-358-2384, our Crisis Intervention Emergency Hotline, and leave a detailed message, including your phone number.