Over 800 LGBTQ youth are homeless in Atlanta

About a quarter of Atlanta’s 3,372 homeless youth are LGBTQ, and they’re at greater risk of human trafficking than their straight counterparts, according to a new Georgia State University study.

The numbers are from the 2018 Atlanta Youth Count, which was released on Oct. 21. Georgia State students conducted anonymous surveys and interviews last fall with about 560 homeless youth between the ages of 14 and 25. The study focused on homeless youth in Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Cobb and Gwinnett counties.

Minority and LGBTQ homeless youth were more likely to be forced into working against their will, according to Georgia State sociology professor Eric Wright. He was the principal investigator on the study.

“Our data suggest that, at least among the homeless, they’re more likely to be trafficked for their labor and less frequently for commercial sexual exploitation,” Wright (photo) said in a press release. “Only one out of four youth were engaging in sex work of some sort, trafficked or otherwise.”

“The vast majority of youth trafficking experiences involved a wide range of different kinds of labor trafficking,” he added.

Some 800 of the study respondents identified as LGBTQ, which is a drop from the 2015 Atlanta Youth Count. That study reported nearly 950 LGBTQ homeless youth in metro Atlanta. The total number of homeless youth in metro Atlanta in both the 2015 and 2018 counts was almost identical.

Some 44 percent of of lesbian, gay or bisexual homeless youth in the 2018 study experienced trafficking while homeless, compared to 34 percent of their straight peers. Some 26 percent of LGB youth experienced commerical sexual exploitation, compared to 12 percent of their straight peers.

Human trafficking disproportionately affected transgender youth. Some 220 respondents to the 2018 Atlanta Youth Count identified as trans. Over 70 percent of the trans youth reported experiencing human trafficking while homeless. Some 45 percent of trans youth experienced commercial sexual exploitation while homeless, compared to about 13 percent of their cisgender peers.

The study is the first of its kind to quantify youth trafficking in metro Atlanta, according to Georgia State doctoral student Ana LaBoy. Using students to conduct the interviews and surveys made the data more accurate, according to LaBoy. 

“Having students have conversations with other young people yielded better results because they were more open to giving candid answers to relative peers,” she said in the press release.

Photo courtesy Georgia State University