During Pride month, we at Homeless Link want to focus on acceptance, equality and celebrating the work of LGBTQIA+ people, education in LGBTQIA+ history and raising awareness of issues affecting the LGBTQIA+ community.
The month also calls for people to remember how damaging homophobia was and still can be.
In 2023, LGBTQ+ young people are still facing homelessness simply because of who they are. 50% of LGBTQ+ young people across the UK, said that they feared that expressing their LGBTQ+ identity to family members would lead to them being evicted (akt, 2021) Unsurprisingly, these experiences can have life-long implications on their physical and mental health.
These stark figures remind us that whilst progress has been made around wider LGBTQ+ equality, we can never be complacent.
In line with our EDI strategy, at Homeless Link we strive to recognise and redress inequalities, and we encourage our members to do the same.
A key step to being an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community is to listen, reflect and learn. So this month we spoke to two organisations that we want to recognise and celebrate. They are leading on some important work for and with the LGBTQIA+ community in the homelessness sector and we hope their experience will inspire others.
akt is a national charity supporting LGBTQIA+ young people aged 16-25 in the UK who are facing or experiencing homelessness or living in a hostile environment. They were formed in Manchester in 1989, during the era of Section 28 where the "promotion of homosexuality" was made illegal.
Whilst Section 28 was repealed, LGBTQIA+ young people are still having to face a hostile socio-political climate. Over 30 years since akt was formed, LGBTQ+ youth homeless is still a pressing issue, with over 24% of young people experiencing homelessness identifying as LGBTQ+. In this year’s Rainbow Europe Map from ILGA Europe, which ranks 49 European countries on their LGBTQ+ equality laws and policies, the UK has dropped to 17th place. UK was 1st in 2015 and the biggest drop has occurred in the last two years.
akt's youth engagement programme has been expanding since October 2022, this programme helps young people find a community where they can be themselves and thrive. In response to increasing numbers of trans young people needing support, akt now also has a specialist service for trans young people in Manchester called the Trans Pathway project. This focuses on building safe and secure pathways into housing for these young people.
The cost-of-living crisis has placed significant pressure on LGBTQIA+ young people, who often do not have families to turn to for support. akt has seen an increase in young people needing support to access emergency accommodation where they feel safe and financial support towards deposits, or a first month’s rent in the private rented sector.
Despite the challenges, akt will continue its work to ensure that no young person has to choose between a safe home and being who they are.
Youth Concern is an independent charity that supports 13-25 year olds by running a drop-in centre, counselling and homelessness prevention projects in Buckinghamshire.
This January, Youth Concern became the home of the Butterflies group, a gender identity social group. This group welcomes 11-25 year olds, following an informal interview to ensure we are consistently offering a safe space for those who identify as trans, non-binary or questioning their gender.
Two quotes from young young people using Butterflies illustrates the importance of this:
“It's my safe space where I don't have to explain my identity, I'm accepted for me.”
“It's the only place I feel able to make friends and talk to people outside of my family.”
Butterflies take part in any number of activities including crafts, counselling, games, cooking, and inviting speakers to share their experiences. The parents/guardians of Butterflies are also able to meet and share stories of their experiences, facilitated by a member of staff.
Butterflies are told that however they express their gender is personal to them. It’s ok if their gender doesn’t change at all, or if the way they express their gender identity is different from any attached stereotypes. We know that everyone expresses their gender in a wide variety of ways – which is a wonderful thing.
These two projects demonstrate what great work is already happening in the homelessness sector to support people who are LGBTQIA+. This Pride month, it’s important that we stand in solidarity with LGBTQIA+ young people and the wider LGBTQIA+ community.