Homeless shelters seeing increase in LGBT youth

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Nearly 40 percent of homeless youth nationwide are LGBT, according to the Williams Institute. Researchers say homeless individuals identifying as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender face a unique set of challenges, such as discrimination and rejection by their families. Staff at the Rescue Mission said the overall number of young people has gone up, as well as the number of youth identifying as LGBT.

"The Rescue Mission is 68 years old and we have had gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual people from day one. That's not new," said Joy Sylvester-Johnson. "What is new is the number of people and the age of people coming through."

Sylvester-Johnson said the overall number of young people identifying as LGBT has gone up at the shelter. She attributes the increase to a lack of support at home.

"Often times we have kids who tried to stay in their homes but couldn't" she said. "We have kids who were sent to treatment centers to try to change their sexual orientation and they've run away."

In cases involving members of the LGBT community, staff at the Rescue Mission work with agencies like the Roanoke Diversity Center to aid with specific needs. They also partner with the Council of Community Services.

Click here for information about the Williams Institute study.

Places to go for help:

Roanoke Rescue Mission 

Address: 402 4th St SE, Roanoke, VA 24013

Phone:(540) 343-7227

Council of Community Services

502 Campbell Ave. SW

Roanoke, VA 24016

Office: (540) 985 - 0131

Roanoke Diversity Center

806 Jamison Ave SE

Roanoke, VA

(540) 491-4165