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New report reveals violence, homelessness still affecting LGBTQ youth

Wisdom2Action is a Halifax-based social enterprise looking to improve the lives of LGBTQ youth
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The Pride Flag flies in front of the Nova Scotia Power building along the Halifax waterfront. (Meghan Groff/HalifaxToday.ca)

Wisdom2Action is a Halifax-based social enterprise looking to improve the lives of LGBTQ youth.

Over the past several months, they've been consulting queer-identifying youth across Canada on what their lives look like.

"The intention was to reach out to as many LGBTQ young folks as we could across the country, to get their perspectives both on how they feel they're impacted by gender-based violence, but also what they'd like to see done about it," says Fae Johnstone, a project affiliate with Wisdom2Action.

The project was funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the group partnered with different organizations to get in touch with youth from various backgrounds.

"We reached about 500 young folks across the country through a survey, social media conversations, as well as focus groups held in a few cities across the country," Johnstone tells NEWS 95.7's The Todd Veinotte Show.

Lisa Lachance, president of Wisdom2Action, says they were surprised with how many youth were willing to share their opinions.

"Obviously this can be a challenging topic, we're asking people to reflect on what can be things that happen that were really negative in their life," she explains. "Young people want to be heard on this issue, so actually getting people engaged wasn't as difficult as you might think."

The information gathering allowed the youth to voice what issues were important to them.

"Things that came up were issues like street harassment, intimate partner violence, negative experiences accessing health services," Johnstone explains.

For many LGBTQ identifying youth, feeling unsafe on the street was a major concern.

"Especially for folks who were gender non-conforming, who didn't really fit what people would expect them to look like, I think that's particularly true," says Johnstone, who is trans herself.

Lachance says another recurring topic in the discussions was family.

"We heard clearly that families and the youths original homes are not always safe spaces," she explains. "We do a lot of work with youth-oriented organizations who provide shelter to young people, and they still see a disproportionate number of young people coming for shelter services who identify as queer."

Johnstone says that 35 to 40 per cent of homeless youth are LGBTQ identified.

Because of this Wisdom2Action is aiming to put more resources towards reaching families.

"The evidence also says that when young folks, particularly trans youth, have inclusive, supportive housing and families, their health outcomes skyrocket in an incredible way," Johnstone says. "We got recommendations that included support groups for families, both virtual and in person, and more public education targeted at families."

When the first draft of the report was completed, Wisdom2Action put out an open call to youth, once again asking them to engage with the findings.

"We had an open call for young people to review the initial findings and think about them, and then we had a smaller group who came together several times to talk about the report and its recommendations," says Lachance.

Now that the report is complete, Johnstone and Lachance are continuing to work with partner organizations across the country to disseminate the results.

"We've shared across all of our partners, with as many housing and social services agencies as we can get the word out to," says Johnstone.

Johnstone says she doesn't want the report to sit on the shelf, but to really put it into action.

"In terms of the recommendations that came out specific to that, one of the biggest recommendations was really a need to amp up the public education," she adds. "And hopefully in the long run we create a reality where harassement doesn't happen in the first place."

For more info, visit the Wisdom2Action website.



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Victoria  Walton

About the Author: Victoria Walton

Victoria is HalifaxToday.ca's weekend editor and a Halifax-based freelancer. She is originally from Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley.
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