The experiences of homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth and the meanings attached to these experiences
Boyle, Troy J.
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The purpose of the study was to develop a better understanding of the experiences of LGBT homeless youth. The study explored the participants' psychosocial experiences and the meanings from a cognitive, behavioral, and affective basis. The study explored the thoughts, behaviors and feelings associated with the experiences of being homeless and the cognitive, behavioral, and affective meanings given to these experiences.;Particular attention was given to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender subset of this population and a heterosexual sample was used for triangulation as well as to compare and contrast the experiences of the two groups. The study of the phenomenology of homelessness among youth overall is scarce, and the study of the phenomenology homelessness among LGBT youth is virtually non-existent. This topic was important as homelessness in the United States is on the rise and the fastest growing proportion of this population is youth. It is estimated that homosexuals make up 5 percent of the population as a whole. Despite this there are reports that LGBT youth account for up to forty percent of the homeless youth population. Youth who are homeless are at increased risk for substance abuse, mental health issues and a myriad of physical psychosocial issues.;Theories guiding the study are symbolic interactionism and identity development. Symbolic interactionism states that people create meaning through their interactions with society. These interactions once interpreted become a person's reality.;The study found that while all homeless youth face great difficulties in several areas of their lives, LGBT youth had challenges that were unique to them in addition to the ones congruent with the heterosexual sample. The study helps to inform practice with this population as well as having implications for policy development, social work education, and setting the stage for future larger studies with an underserved and often overlooked population.