Canada’s First Long Term LGBTQ Group Home Opens in Saskatoon
Gender segregation won’t be a thing here
OUTSaskatoon has just opened an exciting new long term group home for homeless LGBTQ Youth. The new home, which they have called Pride Home, is the first of its kind in Canada and is open to people between the ages of 16 and 21 who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two spirit, intersex, or queer.
An existing short-term home for LGTBQ youth is already operating in Toronto, but OUTSaskatoon executive director Rachel Loewen Walker believes that Pride Home is the first Canadian long-term home where young people who get rooms will be able to stay as long as they need to, right up until they turn 21.
The home’s first two youth residents moved in at the end of last January and are currently sharing the five-bedroom, five-bathroom home with two OUTSaskatoon mentors. According to Loewen Walker, the non-profit organization hopes to be home to three more residents and two more staff members by the spring, and there’s already a waiting list for the remaining spots.
Even though Saskatoon already has support homes for homeless youth, OUTSaskatoon’s research found that the city was in clear need of safe and secure long-term housing that operated specifically for the LGBTQ youth.
Filling a need for safe and long term housing
They conducted a survey in 2016 and discovered that 40 per cent of the LGBTQ youth respondents in Saskatoon had already experienced homelessness or other barriers to housing at some point in their lives. Further data from their study found that 20 to 40 per cent of homeless people in Canada identify as queer or transgender.
Loewen Walker says that, “It shows that there’s still a big problem in terms of kids getting kicked out when they come out and of the fact that available housing options are gendered so you have to be either male or female and there’s not a lot of room for gender fluid, for trans, for exploring those things.”
Even though staff at the city’s eight organizations operating youth group homes are usually supportive of the LGBTQ youth, other kids in the homes aren’t always so supportive. Another issue facing the LGBTQ youth at the city operated homes, is that all eight of them are gender segregated.
Value in being understood
“We know that when it’s really gender segregated that there are instances where a trans youth wants to be in a girls’ home, for example, but they’re not allowed to be because their trans identity isn’t recognized, so they’re placed in a boys’ home, which can be unsafe,” said Loewen Walker. “Being in a place with people that understand what it’s like to be trans, with other youth and staff that understand hormone blockers, that understand the different things that kids will be going through as they navigate transitioning, for example … There’s a value in being in a space where people understand that experience and share that experience.”
OUTSaskatoon plans on launching a fundraising campaign at the end of the month with the the goal of raising $500,000. They will use the money from their fundraiser to develop a five-year sustainable plan for Pride Home that will include running programs and hiring staff.
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