Outcomes for youth living in Canada’s first LGBTQ2S transitional housing program

What you need to know

YMCA Sprott House is a 25-bed housing program that is meant to meet the needs of LGBTQ2S youth (16–24 years of age) who are experiencing homelessness. The researcher evaluated the program and collected important data on the experiences of youth living in Canada’s first population-based transitional housing program for LGBTQ2S youth. Overall, the study revealed that the new transitional housing program had positively impacted youths’ mental health, sense of safety and transition to adulthood.

 

This Research Snapshot looks at the article, "Outcomes for youth living in Canada’s First LGBTQ2S transitional housing program,” which was published in the Journal of Homosexuality in 2019. Read it below or download the PDF. You can also download this infographic about Sprot House, Canada’s first transitional housing program for LGBTQ2S youth.

Research Snapshots are brief, clear language summaries of research articles, presented in a user-friendly format.

What is this research about? 

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and two-spirit (LGBTQ2S) youth experience high rates of discrimination, violence and stigma, resulting in mental health issues, problematic alcohol and substance use, and suicidal ideation. Identity-based family rejection is a major contributing factor to the overrepresentation of homelessness among LGBTQ2S youth. Twenty to 40% of youth (13–24 years old) experiencing homelessness across North America identify as LGBTQ2S. A recent Canadian survey found that approximately 30% of youth experiencing homelessness identified as LGBTQ2S. These youth are especially vulnerable to mental health problems.

In February 2016, YMCA Sprott House opened Canada’s first population-based transitional housing program for LGBTQ2S youth in Toronto. YMCA Sprott House offers a safe and supportive space while encouraging residents to be independent and providing them with the necessary tools to find appropriate and affordable housing in their communities. This research is about understanding how population-based housing programs can meet the unique needs of LGBTQ2S youth experiencing homelessness and help them successfully exit homelessness.

What did the researcher do?

An inaugural year process evaluation was conducted to evaluate the implementation of the program. The researcher conducted two one-on-one interviews with youth residents upon their entry into YMCA Sprott House and approximately one year later when exiting the program. Youth were asked questions about their previous experiences, challenges and barriers regarding homelessness, housing, and access to health care, employment and education, as well as coming out experiences and family life. During the first interview, youth were asked questions about their goals and expectations of YMCA Sprott House, and during the second interview, they were asked about their experiences and reflections of the program.

Prior to each interview, youth also completed a set of surveys focused on sociodemographic information (age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity), mental health, self-esteem, alcohol and substance use, family life and community participation.

In addition, staff and management were interviewed about their experiences and perspectives working at YMCA Sprott House.

What did the researcher find?

Many of the participants described YMCA Sprott House as an incredibly important program that felt like a community and family. The majority of youth spoke about feeling a sense of belonging and acceptance that they had not previously experienced, describing YMCA Sprott House as the first place they were able to just be themselves without having to fear for their safety. Youth reported feeling safer in their day-to-day lives since living at YMCA Sprott House. They also felt that the program helped normalize gender and sexually diverse identities and made it easier for them to explore their identities and live authentically in their felt gender.

Participants experienced decreased unemployment and increased school enrolment. However, several youth reported unmet mental health needs and the need for a more diverse mental health team (e.g., psychiatrist, psychologist and social worker) to deliver regular ongoing mental health support.

Limitations and next steps

The findings of this study need to be interpreted with caution as there is the risk of bias given that only 13 youth participated. This study does not include the perspectives of youth living at YMCA Sprott House who chose not to participate or who were unable to participate. Future research should look beyond the short term and evaluate the long-term outcomes of youth who have exited transitional housing programs, particularly population-based programs such as YMCA Sprott House.

How can you use this research?

Service providers, program managers and policy-makers can use the findings of this research to guide the improvement, development and evaluation of future population-based housing programs for LGBTQ2S youth.

About the researchers

Alex Abramovich,1,2 Lauren Kimura3

  1. Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario
  3. Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, York University, Toronto, Ontario

Keywords

Homelessness, LGBTQ2S, youth, program evaluation, urban context, transitional housing, population-based housing, mental health, sexual orientation, gender identity

This Research Snapshot is based on the article, “Outcomes for youth living in Canada’s First LGBTQ2S transitional housing program,” which was published in the Journal of Homosexuality in 2019. This summary was written by Maryan Warsame. https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2019.1696102