Support services for homeless people are failing gay, lesbian and transgendered youth, a new report warns. The report, released in WA, says youth are at risk of becoming homeless because of their sexuality or gender expression, particularly when combined with factors such as family breakdown or abuse.
Titled 'Closets in SAAP' and produced with a Federal Government grant, it found that youth on the streets continued to face widespread homophobia, often from other clients using services set up to help them. SAAP refers to the State and Federally funded supported accommodation assistance program, which helps people at risk of homelessness.
Drug use, depression, suicidal thoughts and sex work had played a role in the lives of 10 young people interviewed for the report. Many had been bullied or abused before and after they left home.
Researcher Lisa Mori said every young person had experienced "heterosexist behaviour" - intimidation, abuse and threats from other residents in SAAP services.
Of 17 SAAP services taking part in the study, most were not aware of the specific needs of young people dealing with coming out and felt unable to offer support in terms of gender and sexuality identification.
Study participant Alana said she had left Kalgoorlie at 15 because she was fighting with her family and not sure about her sexuality. Bullies had threatened her at school.
The 18-year-old, sexually "between a lesbian and a bisexual", spent three years battling homelessness in Perth and was verbally abused. She now has a place of her own.
Perth Inner City Youth Services manager Kerstin Stender said the report revealed a need for a specific accommodation service in WA for youth with diverse sexuality.