Program Referrals

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. understand the importance of referring LGBTQ2S youth to programs or services that are inclusive and safe enough for LGBTQ2S youth
  2. review programs you refer youth to to audit them for being inclusive and safe enough for LGBTQ2S youth

In the Housing First and LGBTQ2S Youth module we discussed the importance of having appropriate and inclusive referrals for LGBTQ2S youth. Here is this portion again for your review:

Appropriate and Inclusive Referrals are referrals that consider the youth being referred. For example if you are referring a trans youth to a health care provider you want to make sure that the staff are trans positive. One of the many reasons why is this is the right thing to do, is that referrals to programs in which youth may encounter homophobia, biphobia and transphobia will harm your relationship with youth. Youth should be able to trust us to connect them with programs and services that met their needs and they feel comfortable, supported and respected at.

Think about times when you have received bad referrals. This could be your “friend” who sets you up on the worst blind date in the history of blind dates. Or the movie review that made you see a movie that you are still mad at wasting 2 hours of your life. These are trivial compared to homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. But on some level you are probably mad/annoyed at your friend. Now imagine how it would feel to be referred to a program where you experience homophobia and/or transphobia. Appropriate and inclusive referrals are critical to supporting LGBTQ2S youth. There may be some communities that encounter challenges to finding appropriate and inclusive referrals. Please see the Partnerships module for strategies on how to support your local partners become more LGBTQ2S inclusive. Also like you would with all youth you work with, LGBTQ2S decide if they want the referral.

The Partnership module offers some suggestions on how to gauge how LGBTQ2S inclusive your partner organizations and some strategies to working with partners who are struggling with being LGBTQ2S inclusive.

As we work towards making our spaces safe enough for LGBTQ2S youth, we need to evaluate our partnerships to make sure that our partners are also doing the work to make their spaces safe enough. The first step would be develop criteria for determining if an organization is safe enough in the context of your community. In the Identifying Your Local Context module we shared a survey to measure organizational inclusivity. You may want to use the organizational survey at the very least. This will give the partnership group a baseline understanding of how LGBTQ2S inclusive partner organizations are.

It can be time consuming but it is important to invest energy into reviewing the programs you are referring youth to. As we have discussed, our partners reflect on our organizations. LGBTQ2S youth need to know that we are doing the best we can to support them and ensure their needs are met. Some of the feedback youth in our focus groups shared with us includes:

  • Ask youth what supports they still require access to (e.g. drop-in programs, employment programs, shelter bed, etc) with identity of the youth being respected and considered in the referral process
  • Medical referrals
  • Support groups
  • List of accessible and appropriate resources given to youth.
  • Important that we are informed where our community resources are


You are probably doing many if not all of these.

  1. Track the organizations and programs you are referring youth to (all youth not only those who identify as LGBTQ2S). You will recall that LGBTQ2S youth may not be out in the shelter system because they do not feel safe enough.
  2. Contact organizations you are referring youth to and ask them about how LGBTQ2S inclusive they are. You start the conversation with “We are currently reviewing our organization to measure how LGBTQ2S inclusive we are and identify areas we need to strengthen. Is this something you have done?” Or “We are reviewing our program referrals to ensure we are providing appropriate supports for LGBTQ2S youth. Can we talk about how you are creating a LGBTQ2S inclusive space?” See the Partnership module for more details.
  3. Ask LGBTQ2S youth for their opinions on how LGBTQ2S inclusive organizations and programs are. Also ask them what they have heard from their peers about the programs you refer youth to. Are there any issues you need to be aware of.
  4. Ask youth for suggestions on alternative referral programs. This may only work in larger communities.

Do you have any recommendations to add? Please add them as a comment on this page and we will add them to the list.


[previous] [next]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.