Project Launches for LGBTQ Homeless

The UA Southwest Institute for Research on Women has received a $1.2 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to launch a new project in support of unstably housed LGBTQ young adults.
April 7, 2015
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The ANCHOR Project is a trauma-informed system of care for chronically homeless LGBTQ youth and young adults. The project is designed to provide culturally responsive and affirming services that promote housing stability, employment skills, educational achievement, mental and emotional well-being, recovery support, healthy decision-making and community engagement.

 

To learn more, visit the ANCHOR Project's website.

 

Contact the ANCHOR Project team at anchor.project.arizona@gmail.com, or by calling or texting 520-909-0754.

Organizations in cities such as Seattle, New York and San Antonio are actively addressing the high and disproportionate rates of homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth and young adults.

The University of Arizona's Southwest Institute for Research on Women, with a newly funded $1.2 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is doing the same, with a focus on the Tucson region.

SIROW has just launched the ANCHOR Project in partnership with CODAC Behavioral Health Services and the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation. ANCHOR stands for Accessible Network for Coordinated Housing, Opportunities and Resilience. With the federal grant, SIROW also has opened a project site in central Tucson.

"Our community has great resources and we have great community partners that have worked to create a program that aims to surround young adults with support and help them get on their feet," said Claudia Powell, a research social scientist with SIROW and the ANCHOR Project's principal investigator.

"For these young adults, it is important to have some kind of community that is supportive, and to also have opportunities to do something that they may have missed out on earlier in life because they were in an environment that was not supportive."

The UA-led project will be funded over a three-year period to target unstably housed LGBTQ adults ages 18 through 26 who can benefit from various supportive and affirming services.

The UA-led team will offer services that promote housing stability, community engagement, recovery support, education completion and healthy decision-making. Participants also will have the option to engage in services related to employment skills and financial education.

"There aren't too many programs nationally that are comparable," Powell said, noting that while different organizations and agencies may provide housing stability, sexual health and substance abuse support, they often do not incorporate job readiness and education.

"If you are unstably housed, and if you are experiencing violence and don't have food, it's hard to take that next step about thinking about when you are going to finish your GED," Powell said. "It's easy to get stuck in a crisis, but I see this project as trying to take individuals to the next step — addressing traumatic experiences and moving forward."

The team will provide agency staff with training on ways to help prevent instances of discrimination and to provide safe spaces for youth and young adults.

"A huge part of what we are trying to do is to empower people and to make our community more accepting and affirming of LGBTQ people," said Courtney Waters, an assistant research social scientist with SIROW and ANCHOR's health educator.

The ANCHOR Project grew out of earlier SIROW projects, including HerStory and iTEAM, which have provided previously unavailable information about the experiences of LGBTQ youth, particularly related to housing stability, abuse and other trauma and also habits related to substance abuse. 

"In Tucson, SIROW has been working with LGBTQ youth for over a decade and, from our own research, we know that these collaborative projects are effective not only in helping to save lives but building infrastructure within agencies and strengthening the local system of care supporting these young people," said Ian Ellasante, an assistant research social scientist with SIROW and the ANCHOR Project's program coordinator.

The project will  provide a trauma-informed system of care to ensure that LGBTQ young adults are supported in their efforts to make empowered choices, increasing the likelihood that they are able to lead healthy and successful lives.
 
"We are pulling together talents and expertise from different agencies with our staff and, when we combine services, we can create a system of care that helps participants meet their goals," Waters said.

Research indicates that LGBTQ individuals may be less likely to pursue health services for fear of discrimination and experiences of bias. And for those who do not have stable housing, the chances are higher of mental health issues, substance abuse, victimization and sexual behaviors that pose risks. The National Coalition for the Homeless reports that LGBTQ youth who are homeless are 7.4 times more likely to experience acts of sexual violence than heterosexual youth who also are homeless.

Estimates indicate that 20 to 40 percent of those who are between the ages of 18 and 24 who are homeless in Tucson identify as LGBTQ. SIROW'S earlier research indicates that youth generally reported first becoming homeless before the age of 14.

"Tucson has a large LGBTQ community, and we need to educate the broader community about the strengths of individuals within that community, and to acknowledge that everyone should have access to the same opportunities regardless of their identity," Waters said.

"We do this one step at a time," she said. "With every new person who enrolls, if we can make their situation better, we are benefiting the entire community."