support homeless LGBTI youth after influx at crisis accommodation centresLesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) young people are knocking on the doors of crisis accommodation centres in disproportionate numbers, but statisticians are not capturing the trend.

Almost 1,500 homelessness support services provide anonymous details about their clients to a national database, managed by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

It is a treasure trove of information for policy makers and support services alike as it reveals how many homeless people are, for example, Indigenous or have a disability.

Currently there is no requirement for support services to ask their clients about their sexuality or gender identity, but Associate Professor Susan Oakley from the University of Adelaide argues that must change.

"We need to have a better understanding of who is presenting to begin with, before we can start to to think about how we can tailor our support services," she said.

"If we consider their ethnic background or their sex to be important, why wouldn't we include sexuality?"

Independent NSW MP Alex Greenwich —who represents an electorate with a large LGBTI community — agreed with Associate Professor Oakley in principle, but had some reservations.

"It has to be done in a careful way that really respects the fact that we are dealing with a cohort of people who may very well come out one day — quite comfortably and quite confidently — but at the moment they are in an anxious place," he said.

"I hope the service providers and statisticians can work out a way to do that because having that data will really help to inform governmental decisions."

Homelessness data could soon include gender identity

ABC's Background Briefing understands an internal review will consider widening the scope of the information provided to the database, known as the Specialist Homelessness Services collection.

The review will examine the case for counting the number of transgender and intersex homeless people, but privacy concerns will mean the AIHW is unlikely to ask support services to disclose how many gay, lesbian, and bisexuals are seeking their help.

Brett Paradise from Sydney's Twenty10 — one of the country's only providers of crisis accommodation specifically for homeless LGBTI young people — said the subject could easily be approached in a sensitive way.

"You can do some pretty simple training with people around how you introduce that question," he said.

"You need to be able to ask the question and it actually gives you insight into what you might need to be working on and what might be happening for the young person."

At the 2011 Census, more than 100,000 Australians were homeless and roughly a third were under the age of 25.

While how many of them are queer is unknown, international research has found at least a quarter of all young people who are homeless in the UK and US identified as LGBTI.

Support services said the numbers reflected the anecdotal evidence here in Australia.

Violence, bullying impacting homelessness

In Queensland, Brisbane Youth Service has been collecting its own statistics, which suggested 13 per cent of the 1,400 young people it helps each year were LGBTI.

But Brisbane Youth Service CEO Annemaree Callander warned the real figure could be much higher.

"We see a significant proportion of clients three or less times and that's not necessarily the information they're going to be forthcoming with if they are only going to be in once or twice," she said.

The group might be invisible in a statistical sense but there is plenty of research revealing why LGBTI young people are so vulnerable to homelessness, with family violence and school bullying emerging as a common theme.

Jay, whose surname cannot be mentioned for privacy reasons, ran away from home due to verbal and physical abuse.

"So when things started getting really bad, I called a friend and said, 'I can't deal with it here anymore. If I don't leave, I'm going to kill myself'."

Jay is bisexual and does not identify as either male or female, preferring the term "gender-fluid" and the pronoun "they".

The 15-year-old is living in a refuge for homeless kids, run by Brisbane Youth Service, but is still attending school in the hope of finding a path out of homelessness.

"I was thinking about going into forensic psychology or some other legal branch so hopefully [I'll be] in a stable job and hopefully I enjoy it," they said.

"I want to be happy. That's basically all I want."

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