Research in practice

Youth homelessness, sexuality and healthcare: the lived experiences of transgender homeless young people

A research study on sexual health and homelessness aims to influence change in service provision for vulnerable young people

The rate of homelessness is on the rise and it is affecting young people who are one of the most vulnerable groups in society. Despite this, there has been little research to inform society, government, councils or the healthcare system on how to best provide for young people who are experiencing homelessness and how to prevent it in this age group (Fitzpatrick et al 2013, Crisis 2016).

Homelessness can have serious implications for the lives of young people. Picture: iStock

While an undergraduate student at the University of Manchester I undertook a literature review and developed a research proposal as part of my dissertation. My aim was to understand the causes and consequences of homelessness in transgender young people, with the goal of informing improvements in service provision for this group.

The research proposal was for a study planned to run over three years as this would allow me to recruit a sufficient sample for robust, rigorous results. The study is planned to end in September 2020.


Three themes emerged from the findings of the literature review about the factors that had a negative effect on the sexual health of young people. These themes were: survival sex, substance misuse and stigma. 

A qualitative paradigm was used to contextualise the research question. Queer theory is included as a theoretical perspective to reduce the risk of participant objectification (Gamson 2000). Ethical considerations, setting and time constraints determine much of the method through which the study is conducted. Relationship with participants is crucial to depict a true understanding of the challenges this group faces (Booth 1999).

The proposed study will be conducted in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)-friendly homeless shelters in the UK, more specifically, those residing in the Purple Door project – a scheme that provides accommodation for LGBT homeless young people. Participants will be recruited at these centres and by snowball sampling through information gained from the Purple Door project participants.

The proposed method of data collection is semi-structured interviews consisting of a series of open-ended questions that allow free dialogue to gain a deeper understanding of the experiences of these young people (Offredy and Vickers 2013).

Interviews will be recorded and transcribed and then analysed. The analysis data will involve examination, categorisation, tabulation and recombination of evidence obtained from the research (Offredy and Vickers 2013).  Data will then be divided into themes for  analysis and raw data will be analysed. Phenomena will be structured on essential findings from thematic analysis. Verification of validity and rigour will be included.

Critical analysis

My literature review highlighted the causes and consequences and negative effects of homelessness. The negative impact on sexual health highlighted the need for service provision in a variety of services such as housing, finance and healthcare.

The lack of consistency in the use of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) acronym across studies led to the identification of a significant gap in research. This lack of consistency was rooted in different variations of the acronym which often excluded a letter, for example, LGB or LGBT. My proposed research bridges this gap from existing literature to an alternative perspective on homelessness by specifically addressing the experiences of homeless transgender young people.


Homelessness and marginalisation has a profound effect on sexual health and other aspects of health. Without understanding the experiences of homeless transgender young people, service change will never be able to meet their needs. My proposed study intends to give a voice to this group and instigate positive change, with the ultimate aim of instigating adjustment in a variety of sectors so that this group can be protected from harm, victimisation and vulnerability.




Aoife Quinn was a nursing student at the time of writing and is now a staff nurse at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. The article is written on behalf of the RCN’s Research in Child Health community.


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