Psychosocial Experiences of LGBTQIA+ Youth Experiencing Homelessness in Cape Town, South Africa




psychosocial, LGBTQIA , youth, homelessness


Social science literature demonstrates consistent trends of socioeconomic disadvantage and complex psychosocial problems for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, plus (LGBTQIA+) people globally. This is particularly salient in the area of homelessness among LGBTQIA+ youth in the literature from the Global North. This study sought to document and analyse the psychosocial experiences of LGBTQIA+ youth (aged 18 to 34) in Cape Town, South Africa. Through a mixed methods approach, using the theoretical frameworks of intersectionality, minority stress theory, and minority strengths theory, researchers examined semi-structured interview and survey data from 12 residents at an emergency shelter service organisation for LGBTQIA+ individuals experiencing homelessness in Cape Town. Findings indicate that residents in the shelter reported heightened levels of depression and experiences of discrimination. Several major themes emerged from interview transcript analysis, such as the role of culture, toxic masculinity, religion, substance use, and mental health concerns. Recommendations are that social workers continue to follow-up with residents once they have left the shelter to ensure that the interventions are successful and that programmes designed for the population should incorporate an understanding of these psychosocial aspects of LGBTQIA+ homelessness in South Africa.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Neil Henderson, University of the Western Cape

Research Fellow, Department of Social Work

Aaron Kemmerer, Virginia Commonwealth University

Ph.D. Student - School of Social Work

Johan Fourie, University of the Western Cape

Masters Student, Department of Social Work


Alessi, Edward J., Sarilee Kahn, Sulaimon Giwa, and Shannon Cheung. 2020. “‘Those Tablets, They Are Finding an Empty Stomach’: A Qualitative Investigation of HIV Risk among Sexual and Gender Minority Migrants in Cape Town, South Africa.” Ethnicity and Health 27 (4): 800–16. DOI:

Bhagat, Ali. 2018. “Forced (Queer) Migration and Everyday Violence: The Geographies of Life, Death, and Access in Cape Town.” Geoforum 89: 155–63. DOI:

Bhagat, Ali. 2020. “Queer Necropolitics of Forced Migration: Cyclical Violence in the African Context.” Sexualities 23 (3): 361–75. DOI:

Carter, Nancy, Denise Bryant-Lukosius, Alba DiCenso, Jennifer Blythe, and Alan J. Neville. 2014. “The Use of Triangulation in Qualitative Research.” Oncology Nursing Forum 41 (5): 545–47. DOI:

Chimdessa, Ayana, and Amsale Cheire. 2018. “Sexual and Physical Abuse and Its Determinants among Street Children in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 2016.” BMC Pediatrics 18 (1): 304. DOI:

City of Cape Town. 2019. “Street People Enumeration 18/19.” Social Development and Early Childhood Development. Accessed July 12, 2023.

Côté, Philippe-Benoit, Lolita Frésard, and Martin Blais. 2023. “‘I Didn’t Want to be Noticed’: Discrimination and Violence among LGBTQ+ Youth Experiencing Homelessness.” Journal of LGBT Youth. DOI:

Crenshaw, Kimberle. 1989. “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” University of Chicago Legal Forum 8 (1): 139–67.

Deal, Cameron, Riya D. Doshi, and Gilbert Gonzales. 2023. “Gender Minority Youth Experiencing Homelessness and Corresponding Health Disparities.” Journal of Adolescent Health 72 (5): 763–69. DOI:

Dedoose Version 9.0.17. 2021. “Web Application for Managing, Analyzing, and Presenting Qualitative and Mixed Method Research Data.” Los Angeles: SocioCultural Research Consultants, LLC.

El Sayyed, Nasr, Ibrahim A. Kabbash, and Mirvat El Gueniedy. 2008. “Risk Behaviours for HIV/AIDS Infection among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Cairo, Egypt.” Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal 14 (4): 905–15.

Embleton, Lonnie, Juddy Wachira, Allan Kamanda, Violet Naanyu, Susanna Winston, David Ayuku, and Paula Braitstein. 2015. “‘Once You Join the Streets You Will Have to Do It’: Sexual Practices of Street Children and Youth in Uasin Gishu County, Kenya.” Reproductive Health 12 (1): 1–11. DOI:

Gattis, Maurice N. 2013. “An Ecological Systems Comparison between Homeless Sexual Minority Youths and Homeless Heterosexual Youths.” Journal of Social Service Research 39 (1): 38–49. DOI:

Gattis, Maurice N., and Andrea Larson. 2016. “Perceived Racial, Sexual Identity, and Homeless Status-related Discrimination among Black Adolescents and Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness: Relations with Depressive Symptoms and Suicidality.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 86 (1): 79–90. DOI:

Gattis, Maurice N., M. Alex Wagaman, and Aaron Kemmerer. 2023. “Developing Marsha and Marian’s Neighbors: A Shared Housing Intervention to Address Homelessness Among LGBTQ+ and Pregnant/Parenting Youth.” Youth 3 (1), 335–50. DOI:

Haroz, Emily E., Judith Bass, C. Lee, S. S. Oo, K. Lin, Brandon Kohrt, Lynn Michalopolous, A. J. Nguyen, and P. Bolton. 2017. “Development and Cross-Cultural Testing of the International Depression Symptom Scale (IDSS): A Measurement Instrument Designed to Represent Global Presentations of Depression.” Global Mental Health 4. Cambridge University Press: e17. DOI:

Hogan, Kimberly A., and Dominique Roe-Sepowitz. 2020. “LGBTQ+ Homeless Young Adults and Sex Trafficking Vulnerability.” Journal of Human Trafficking 9 (1): 63–78. DOI:

Holland-Muter, Susan. 2019. “Making Place, Making Home: Lesbian Queer World-making in Cape Town.” Revista Estudos Feministas 27: 3. DOI:

IBM Corp. Released 2021. IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 28.0. Armonk: IBM Corp.

Isaack, Wendy. 2003. “Equal in Word of Law: The Rights of Lesbian and Gay People in South Africa.” Human Rights 30 (3): 19–22.

Izugbara, Chimaraoke, Seun Bakare, Meroji Sebany, Boniface Ushie, Frederick Wekesah, and Joan Njagi. 2020. “Regional Legal and Policy Instruments for Addressing LGBT Exclusion in Africa.” Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters 28 (1): 1698905. DOI:

Keuroghlian, Alex S., Derri Shtasel, and Ellen L. Bassuk. 2014. “Out on the Street: A Public Health and Policy Agenda for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth Who Are Homeless.” The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 84 (1): 66–72. DOI:

Kugara, Stewart Lee, V. O. Netshandama, and P. E. Matshidze. 2017. “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights in South Africa: A Struggle for Equality.” Gender and Behaviour 15 (2): 9055–59.

Lane, Tim, Thomas Mogale, Helen Struthers, Jame McIntyre, and Susan M. Kegeles. 2008. “‘They See You as a Different Thing’: The Experiences of Men Who Have Sex with Men with Healthcare Workers in South African Township Communities.” Sexually Transmitted Infections 84 (6): 430–33. DOI:

Margaretten, Emily. 2015. Street Life under a Roof: Youth Homelessness in South Africa. University of Illinois Press. DOI:

Marnell, John, Elsa Oliveira, and Gabriel Hoosain Khan. 2021. “‘It’s about Being Safe and Free to Be Who You Are’: Exploring the Lived Experiences of Queer Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers in South Africa.” Sexualities 24 (1–2): 86–110. DOI:

Mathebula, Sibusiso Donald, and Eleanor Ross. 2013. “Realizing or Relinquishing Rights? Homeless Youth, Their Life on the Streets and their Knowledge and Experience of Health and Social Services in Hillbrow, South Africa.” Social Work in Health Care 52 (5): 449–66. DOI:

Matthews, Peter, Christopher Poyner, and Richard Kjellgren. 2019. “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Experiences of Homelessness and Identity: Insecurity and Home(o)normativity.” International Journal of Housing Policy 19 (2): 232–53. DOI:

McCann, Edward, and Michael Brown. 2019. “Homelessness among Youth Who Identify as LGBTQ+: A Systematic Review.” Journal of Clinical Nursing 28 (11–12): 2061–72. DOI:

McHugh, Mary L. 2012. “Interrater Reliability: The Kappa Statistic.” Biochemia Medica 22 (3): 276–82. DOI:

Meyer, Ilan H. 2003. “Prejudice, Social Stress, and Mental Health in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Populations: Conceptual Issues and Research Evidence.” Psychological Bulletin 129 (5): 674–97. DOI:

Mohale, Robert, and Tsoaledi Thobejane. 2018. “An Exploration on the Challenges Faced by Youth in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Relationships at Mkhuhlu Location, Mpumalanga Province, South Africa.” Gender and Behaviour 16 (2): 11424–40.

Morrow, Quin J., and Jenifer K. McGuire. 2023. “A Qualitative Inquiry of Associations between Family Environment and Suicidality for Transgender Youth Experiencing Homelessness.” Journal of Adolescent Research. DOI:

Müller, Brian M. 2019. “The (Un)Promised Land: Queer Identity and South Africa’s Post-Apartheid Urban Landscape.” Gender, Place, and Culture 26 (11): 1609–31. DOI:

Nyeck, S. N. 2019. “Historical and Sociopolitical Context.” The Economic Cost of LGBT Stigma and Discrimination in South Africa. UCLA School of Law: The Williams Institute.

Ormiston, Cameron K. 2022. “LGBTQ Youth Homelessness: Why We Need to Protect Our LGBTQ Youth.” LGBT Health 9 (4): 217–21. DOI:

Perrin, Paul B., Megan E. Sutter, Michael A. Trujillo, Richard S. Henry, and Mickeal Pugh Jr. 2020. “The Minority Strengths Model: Development and Initial Path Analytic Validation in Racially/Ethnically Diverse LGBTQ Individuals.” Journal of Clinical Psychology 76 (1): 118–36. DOI:

Pieterse, Marius. 2015. “Law, Rights, Space and Sexual Citizenship in South Africa.” Social Dynamics 41 (3): 482–501. DOI:

Pride Shelter Trust. n.d. Accessed July 14, 2021.

Reid, Graeme. 2010. “The Canary of the Constitution: Same-Sex Equality in the Public Sphere.” Social Dynamics 36 (1): 38–51. DOI:

Rice, LaVon. 2007. “Queer Africa.” Colorlines: Race, Action, Culture 10 (3): 38.

Ritholtz, Samuel. 2023. “Is Queer-and-Trans Youth Homelessness a Form of Displacement? A Queer Epistemological Review of Refugee Studies’ Theoretical Borders.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 46 (9): 1854–876. DOI:

Scheibe, Andrew, Katherine Young, Anna Versfeld, C. Wendy Spearman, Mark W. Sonderup, Nishi Prabdial-Sing, Adrian Puren, and Harry Hausler. 2020. “Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV Prevalence and Related Sexual and Substance Use Risk Practices among Key Populations Who Access HIV Prevention, Treatment and Related Services in South Africa: Findings from a Seven-City Cross-Sectional Survey (2017).” BMC Infectious Diseases 20 (1): 655. DOI:

Scheim, Ayden I., and Greta R. Bauer. 2019. “The Intersectional Discrimination Index: Development and Validation of Measures of Self-reported Enacted and Anticipated Discrimination for Intercategorical Analysis.” Social Science and Medicine 226: 225–35. DOI:

Shorten, Allison, and Joanna Smith. 2017. “Mixed Methods Research: Expanding the Evidence Base.” Evidence-Based Nursing 20 (3): 74–75. DOI:

Singh, Jatinder. 2013. “Critical Appraisal Skills Programme.” Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics 4 (1): 76. DOI:

Spronk, Rachel, and S. N. Nyeck. 2021. “Frontiers and Pioneers in (the Study of) Queer Experiences in Africa Introduction.” Africa 91 (3): 388–97. DOI:

Testa, Rylan J., Janice Habarth, Jayme Peta, Kimberly Balsam, and Walter Bockting. 2015. “Development of the Gender Minority Stress and Resilience Measure.” Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity 2 (1): 65–77. DOI:

Thornell, Christina. 2021. “Why South Africa Is Still So Segregated.” April 19, 2021.

Wentzel, D., and A. Voce. 2012. “Health Seeking Experiences and Behaviours of Homeless People in Durban, South Africa.” Africa Journal of Nursing and Midwifery 14 (2): 77–89.

Wesi, T. 2015. “LGBT+ Citizens Left Homeless as Families Shut Doors on Them.” The Citizen.



How to Cite

Gattis, Maurice, Neil Henderson, Aaron Kemmerer, and Johan Fourie. 2024. “Psychosocial Experiences of LGBTQIA+ Youth Experiencing Homelessness in Cape Town, South Africa”. Southern African Journal of Social Work and Social Development 36 (1):22 pages.



Received 2023-04-06
Accepted 2023-09-20
Published 2024-02-20