The Impacts of COVID-19 on 2SLGBTQ+ Youth At-Risk Of, and Experiencing, Homelessness

Alex Abramovich, Scientist, Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, CAMH

What is this research about?

During the early waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which little was known about how the pandemic was impacting 2SLGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness, this research was created to understand the specific experiences, challenges, and mental health responses among 2SLGBTQ+ youth at risk of, and currently experiencing, homelessness during the pandemic.

Moreover, this research aims to produce recommendations based on the research to improve programs and services for 2SLGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic, in future waves of the pandemic, and during the transitions out of the pandemic.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers utilized a mixed-methods approach – combining both qualitative and quantitative data – to collect data from 2SLGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness and the service providers who serve them.

Data was collected through both virtual surveys and one-on–one interviews. The survey questions focused on mental health, alcohol and substance use, COVD-19 vaccine uptake, access to healthcare, social support, living situations, and family conflict; interview questions focused on COVID-19 related challenges and barriers, mental health, coping strategies, family life, and access to healthcare and community support services.

What did the researchers find?

  • 2SLGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in various ways. Many have reported experiencing poor mental health – such as suicidality, depression, and anxiety – increased alcohol and substance use, a lack of access to healthcare and social support services, and changes to their living situation. For example, many youth have reported seeking shelter/sleeping in public spaces since the pandemic began. However, some of these outcomes improved in the later stages of the pandemic.
  • Moreover, the majority of 2SLGBTQ+ experiencing homelessness were confident in the COVID-19 vaccine; however, various youth were non-vaccine confident due to mistrust in the healthcare system, lack of targeted public health information about the vaccine, concerns about safety and side effects, and accessibility issues.

How can you use this research?

This research highlights the need for 2SLGBTQ+ inclusive, safe, and affirming healthcare, housing and community support services for previously housed youth and adolescents to address the pre-existing social and health issues that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

This research can also be used by decision makers/policy makers and public health officials creating pandemic response plans, as well as academics to further research. Finally, research findings can be used to provide an understanding of the experiences, challenges, barriers, and needs of 2SLGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness.