Research suggests that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, youth are significantly overrepresented among young people experiencing homelessness. Like other homeless individuals, LGBT young people experience significant challenges while homeless—including limited access to food, shelter, health care, education, and employment. Many of these young people have run away from home or have been kicked out by families who do not accept them for who they are. Regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, homeless youth—like other adolescents and young adults—are growing and developing a sense of self, while also navigating homelessness. For LGBT young people, this often includes making difficult choices about whether and when to identify openly as LGBT.
At the same time that they are figuring out how to express who they are to themselves and to others in person, many homeless LGBT youth struggle to prove their identities on paper. State-issued photo identification, or ID, cards are, for a variety of reasons, difficult to obtain for many LGBT and homeless youth. Without an accurate, up-to-date ID card, even routine tasks can become bureaucratic nightmares.
Federal regulations that govern certain state processes for issuing federally accepted ID cards make obtaining these cards more difficult for homeless individuals. In addition to these federal barriers, individual state policies create unnecessary hurdles for homeless young people trying to acquire identification. To ensure that homeless youth are not deterred from reaching their goals because of bureaucratic red tape, it is critical to implement measures that facilitate their access to ID cards.