The number of homeless LGBTQ people in Toronto, Ontario is staggering. More than eleven percent of Toronto residents who identify as LGBTQ are homeless. The rate is even worse for youth, rising to an estimated 24 to forty percent. LGBTQ Indigenous people and people of color also face disproportionate degrees of poverty and homelessness, according to a September 2019 report in Briarpatch, a Canadian alternative press magazine. Being homeless or poor exposes this group of people to harassment and violence, unemployment, and lack of access to health care. However, as Alex Verman reported, Canada’s mainstream LGBTQ organizations routinely overlook this population.
For example, Egale is Canada’s only nation-wide LGBTQ charity. Although the organization holds an annual event highlighting homophobia and transphobia as contributors to high homeless rates, the charity is not politically active on the issue. The article states Egale does not deal directly with homelessness, substance abuse, sex work, and other elements of LGBTQ life, nor does Egale actively push for services such as a national housing strategy, overdose prevention sites, and information on how to find apartments and youth shelters.
Instead, many non-profit LGBTQ organizations focus more on issues of general mainstream education. Their strategies are “remarkably apolitical,” Verman wrote. They don’t promote and have plans to target deep-rooted issues such as homelessness. Organizations have failed at the institutional level at supporting and raising awareness.
The article highlights the work of people like Monica Forrester, a queer and trans activist who is a consultant for The 519, an agency that built a shelter for homeless LGBTQ people. Funding for the shelter is not guaranteed and it receives a very small portion of the provincial and federal governments budgets. Often mainstream organizations fund these groups for a year but then their support fades out. The article concludes that mainstream LGBTQ organizations could do a better job of supporting people long-term and raising awareness of key crises such as homelessness, violence, and addiction within the LGBTQ community.
There appears to be no mainstream press coverage of this issue, which raises the question about how non-profit organizations support LGBTQ communities and how much funding goes toward highly marginalized groups.
Source: Alex Verman, “The Loud Silence of Queer Poverty,” Briarpatch, September 5, 2019, https://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/the-loud-silence-of-queer-poverty.
Student Researcher: Adam Bent (University of Regina)
Faculty Advisor: Penny Smoke (University of Regina)