The Homeless

For first time, we know how many homeless youths identify as LGBTQ in Sacramento County

Here’s what it’s like trying to count Sacramento’s homeless at night

Volunteers participate in the point in time count homeless census in Sacramento on Wednesday night, Jan. 30, 2019 near the American River.
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Volunteers participate in the point in time count homeless census in Sacramento on Wednesday night, Jan. 30, 2019 near the American River.

About 1 in 6 homeless young adults in Sacramento County identified as being gay/lesbian, bisexual or a sexual orientation other than straight, and 3 percent identified as gender non-conforming, according to this year’s census count.

Another 8 percent of homeless young adults also refused to answer what their sexual orientation was – a frequent indication of someone who also likely falls within the LGTBQ community, said Koby Rodriguez with the Sacramento LGBT Community Center.

It’s the first time ever the county has begun tracking sexual orientation and broader gender identities as part of its federally mandated point-in-time count, as research nationwide indicate that LGBTQ youths disproportionately experience homelessness.

The new data, released Wednesday, also help support a growing call for Sacramento to provide shelter services specifically for these young people.

“The money is going to the optics: We see a lot of adults on the street so how do we get those people (out),” Rodriguez said.

“But the reality is our youth are couch-surfing, not out in the day and panhandling. They’re out there but because you don’t see them in the same way there’s not a high need to treat them.”

LGBT young adults have a 120 percent higher risk of reporting homelessness compared to youths who identify as straight and cisgender, according to a 2017 report by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, which focuses on child and family welfare.

Many face stigma, taunts or reluctance toward acceptance from family members, or are bullied, attacked or sexually assaulted, the Human Rights Campaign 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report found.

“In talking to LGBT youth of color and transgender youth, they are buffeted by multiple layers of prejudice and barriers. This is a way to empower them for a productive and happy life,” City Councilman Steve Hansen, who is the city’s first openly gay council member, previously told The Sacramento Bee.

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The census found roughly 415 young adults between ages 18 and 25 were homeless in Sacramento County.

Among all unsheltered homeless people in Sacramento County regardless of age, about 1 in 10 identified as gay/lesbian, bisexual or another non-straight sexual orientation.

About 1 percent of all homeless people in the county, 41 people, identified as transgender or gender non-conforming in this year’s count.

During the 2017 count, 61 people, or about 2 percent, identified as transgender or “other.”

This Saturday, the city of Sacramento’s first homeless shelter focused on serving LGBTQ youths between 18-24 is set to open in midtown at the corner of 21st and P streets.

The 24-hour 12-bed facility aims to address “the growing epidemic of LGBTQ+ youth homelessness in our region,” according to Sacramento LGBT Community Center spokeswoman Krystal Peak.

The short-term shelter allows young people to stay for up to 90 days, offering food, clothing, transportation and assistance securing housing or ID cards.

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Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks covers Sacramento County and the cities and suburbs beyond the capital. She’s previously worked at The New York Times and NPR, and is a former Bee intern. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she was the managing editor of The Daily Californian.

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