Supporting queer and trans youth experiencing homelessness
Claire Ens, Manager of Directions Youth Services Centre.
For Homelessness Action Week (Oct. 9-16, 2022), we’re highlighting stories about the pathways in and out of homelessness. There are as many ways to become homeless as there are people without a home. Follow us this week on our social media channels and find out more about the many paths to tackling homelessness and housing affordability.
The queer and trans youth who come to Directions Youth Services Centre face many of the same challenges—homelessness, poverty, substance use—that other youth experience. Queer and trans youth, however, often experience these challenges because of marginalization due to their identities.
“Being out about their queerness as well as passing as a certain gender that one was not assigned at birth can be a privilege and, without this privilege, youth can experience discrimination from a landlord or employer,” said Claire Ens, Manager of Directions Youth Services Centre.
Often these young people lack family support as well. This means that queer and trans youth face significant barriers, including discrimination in their search for housing.
According to a 2018 report, nearly 700 youth were experiencing homelessness, sleeping rough, or precariously housed in Metro Vancouver—and one-quarter of them identified as 2SLGBTQIA+.
Located in Downtown Vancouver and open 24/7, Directions offers extensive services to youth under 25. These services include hot meals, harm reduction supplies, Indigenous outreach, and paid work, to name a few. Directions also operates a 12-bed shelter program and Vancouver's only Extreme Weather Response shelter for youth.
To best serve queer, trans, and other marginalized youth, Directions is made up of staff—like Claire Ens —who identify in similar ways.
“The starting point for us is to provide youth with folks who can relate to them, who have demonstrated that you can grow into a successful, independent young adult through these challenges,” said Claire, who is queer non-binary.
The main space at Directions.
In 2021, Claire and other staff members expanded their outreach to queer and trans youth. To find out why and how they could do better, Directions surveyed clients and other community organizations.
“What kind of gaps in services are you seeing that you would like us to provide or strive to provide? What do you think we should do?” Claire said.
One need identified in the survey was for an in-house library of queer and trans content. So, Directions built a bookshelf of novels, comics, and other media in its community engagement room.
Also, staff have started to hold queer movie nights in the community engagement room clients can watch lighthearted shows like Queer Eye and RuPaul’s Drag Race, which helps build a welcoming space. It also helps staff start conversations with clients.
“What do you need? How can we help? What are you working on?” Claire said. “It’s all about relationship building.
BC Housing is proud to support the work of Family Services of Greater Vancouver, and provide funding for the Emergency Shelter Program at Directions. Visit fsgv.ca to learn more about the work of Family Services of Greater Vancouver.
Since 2017, BC Housing has approximately 36,000 homes complete or underway across the province. We're rapidly working to boost the supply of affordable housing across B.C.
To find resources for 2SLGBTQIA++ youth, visit www.qchat.ca/bc-lgbtq2s-resources. To learn more about Housing Assistance through BC Housing, visit https://www.bchousing.org/housing-assistance or contact our Applicant Services line at 604-433-2218 or 1-800-257-7756 (toll free).
A new rent supplement is now available for youth from care, offered by the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Recipients can receive $600-a-month for two years or until their 27th birthday. First round applications are open until November 1, 2022. To learn more, visit news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022CFD0024-001553