News / Edmonton

Edmonton leads the way creating a safe place for trans homeless youth

Colette Chelle, 20, who was homeless between the ages of 16 and 17, says she was treated like she was “subhuman” in youth shelters, as a transgender woman.

“Most shelters, and I’m not saying all, but most don’t understand what to do with trans people. They treat us as if we are somehow unshelterable,” Chelle said, adding she was always forced to use male dorms and showers.

“They will stick you with whatever parts you have,” she said.

Chelle left home after coming out to her mother, wanting to get out of the house before her father found out she was transgender. She explained that it is not uncommon for trans youth to leave home because they do feel not accepted or safe.

According to the Homeless Hub, 20 to 40 per cent of homeless youth in Canada identify as LGBTQ.

Sam Leiable, president and founder of SAFQEY (Safe Accommodations for Queer Edmonton Youth), says this number is hugely disproportionate to the general population of which 5 to 10 per cent identify as LGBTQ.

SAFQEY is an Edmonton based grassroots charity established this spring, with the aim of assisting LGBTQ homeless youth.

Their goal is to raise community awareness about this issue. SAFQEY is in the process of obtaining grants for a pilot project to create a housing facility specifically for LGBTQ homeless youth; this is unprecedented in Canada.

“It’s not about just a roof over someone’s head, it’s about empowerment and mentorship,” Leiable said, adding that these youth shouldn’t have to explain themselves but just be understood.

“There’s been a lot of progress but in my mind from what I’ve seen who’s being left out?” Leiable said.

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