At the White House LGBT Innovation Summit this summer, LGBT Tech vice president Allyson Robinson announced a new program to leverage the power of mobile technology to improve outcomes for homeless LGBT youth: Connect 4 Life. We are excited to release our latest research report, Helping Homeless Youth Stay Connected, showing just how big the problem of LGBT youth homelessness really is – and how mobile connectivity can help solve it.
In producing this research, LGBT Technology Institute research fellow Andrea Hackl collected and analyzed dozens of field reports, articles, and research papers describing the unique experiences of homeless LGBT youth and the impact mobile technology has on their lives. Some highlights:
LGBT youth are significantly overrepresented within the homeless population. A recent study found that 40% of the clients served by homeless youth shelters and other service organizations are LGBT.
Homeless LGBT youth face unique challenges on the streets. Not only are these young people more likely to experience depression and other mental health problems, but they are also at greater risk of becoming victims of physical and sexual abuse.
For transgender youth, a lack of culturally competent shelters and services makes the situation even worse.
Mobile technology plays a vital role in the lives of homeless youth. For instance, work conducted by USC social work professor Eric Rice showed the potential for mobile technology to improve their mental and physical wellbeing by allowing them to stay connected with supportive networks.
Having mobile data means homeless youth can easily access information on preventative healthcare. It can also help them to locate safe shelters, get help in emergency situations, and report incidents of harassment.
Having a stable phone number and regular access to email are critically to improving economic outcomes – communicating with potential employers, for example, or finding housing. “They use their phones to pull themselves up by their boot straps,” said USC’s Rice.
The LGBT Technology Partnership & Institute are working with youth service organizations, mobile service providers, and researchers to provide homeless LGBT youth with free cellphones and subsidized mobile service. A beta test of the program, set to launch late this year, will put fifty mobile phones in the hands of homeless youth in the nation’s capital. Want to get involved?
Sign up to receive updates on Connect 4 Life’s rollout.
Vote to see this research presented at South by Southwest.
Consider making a donation to support Connect 4 Life.
Blog post by Andrea Hackl, Research Fellow, LGBT Technology Institute and Ph.D. Student at American University, School of Communication, @AndreaHackl_AU