One of the most famous photos taken at the start of the Stonewall rights shows LGBT youth fighting against harassment from New York city’s police. Most people don’t realise the heavy involvement of those who were homeless in the riots that took place in 1969. Then as much as now those who are LGBT and homeless often represent an invisible sector, both within the LGBT community and within the homeless community. Because they are difficult to see they are often forgotten about in the work each sector does and remain hidden, despite their often very specific needs.
Homeless LGBT rioters – Stonewall, 1969
25-40% of those living homeless in the US identify as LGB or T (NYHS2012). While you may think this figure is quite low it’s actually much higher than the proportion of those who self-identify as LGB or T in the states or here in the UK. The reasons for this are complicated – but homo-/trans-/bi-phobia in the family home is an important factor that often results in homelessness. Whilst being physically thrown out of the home for being LGBT is, thankfully, quite uncommon in the UK (at least compared with many other countries), this can and does happen. Even where it doesn’t, intolerance at home can often result in homelessness indirectly through a decision to move out following discrimination. Prejudice and intolerance can also cause difficulties finding a stable home and can result in barriers accessing services for LGBT people.
Problems that sometimes exist amongst the LGBT homeless population include the following:
- Homo-/bi/trans-phobia when accessing services
- Bullying or harassment in school
- Intolerance and rejection from family, friends and parents
- Discrimination from landlord/renting agency
- Lack of sensitivity regarding sexual orientation when accessing services
- Mental health problems dealing with LGBT identity
- Increased likelihood of risky sexual behaviour e.g. trading sex for a place to stay/having unprotected sex
- Drug and alcohol dependency
So what’s being done? What support is out there?
Thankfully there are some great charities and organisations doing work with the LGBT homeless population here in the UK, shedding light on the needs of this often forgotten group. In London the following charities work with the LGBT homeless:
Albert Kennedy Trust – Working with young LGBT individuals who are made homeless or who are in a hostile home environment. http://www.akt.org.uk/
Crisis – Actively strive to involve the LGBT community in their work and produce research with the LGBT community e.g. Sexuality and homelessness (2005)-report about presumed heterosexuality when accessing homelessness services. http://www.crisis.org.uk/
Jigsaw –Helping homeless LGBT people in London find a home. http://www.lgbtjigsaw.net/
Stonewall Housing – Helping LGBT people find safe and secure homes, including support for older LGBT people. http://www.stonewallhousing.org/home.html
Issues often affecting those who are LGBT and homeless provide the crux of the support services provided by GMI. Our services include free mentoring, counselling and sexual health advice considering areas such as alcohol, drugs, self-esteem, identity and the link between these and risky sexual behaviour. If you are interested in any of these, or know somebody who might be, please take a look at our website http://www.gmipartnership.org.uk/ or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .