Canada’s first long-term group home for LGBTQ youth has opened its doors in Saskatoon.

The first two residents moved into OUTSaskatoon’s Pride Home at the end of January. The space gives people a safe place to live with access to the non-profit’s services, like youth programming and counselling.

The organization says the home, which is open to people between the ages of 16 and 21 who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two spirit, intersex or queer, is the first of its kind in Canada.

Along with the two youth, two mentors live in the five-bedroom, five-bathroom home. OUTSaskatoon executive director Rachel Loewen Walker said the non-profit hopes to house three more residents and two more staff members by the spring.

A waiting list already exists for the remaining spots, she said.

She said while Saskatoon already has supportive group homes for youth, it’s important to have a home specifically for LGBTQ people.

“Living in a home where you are surrounded by people that understand you, maybe had gone through what you had gone through earlier so they could offer advice, and where you can fully and completely be yourself both in gender identity, expression and sexuality,” Loewen Walker said.

“We know for a fact that just means the world to people and would have meant the world to a lot of folks that now have grown up and didn’t have a safe place like that.”

A survey done by OUTSaskatoon in 2016 found 40 per cent of the LGBTQ youth respondents in Saskatoon had dealt with homelessness or barriers to housing at some point in their lives. Other data shows 20 to 40 per cent of homeless people in Canada identify as queer or transgender, according to Loewen Walker.

“The fact that queer and trans folks make up around 10 per cent of the population, that’s a gross overrepresentation,” she said.

Parents often kick teenagers out of their home after they come out as lesbian, gay or transgender, Loewen Walker said. The move, coupled with mental issues like depression, isolation and exclusion that many LGBTQ people face, can lead to homelessness.

OUTSaskatoon is launching a fundraising campaign in the coming weeks in hopes of raising $500,000 to help with staff salaries for the home and