“LGTB young people are more likely to find themselves homeless than their non LGBT peers, comprising up to 24% of the youth homeless population”.
People identifying as LGTB make up 6.8% of the UK’s population. This means that they are vastly over-represented within the youth homeless population.
The most common causes for homelessness amongst LGBT young people was reported to be parental rejection, physical, sexual and emotional abuse and aggression/violence.
Stonewall housing, who offer specialist advice and support to LGBT people of all ages said: “Two thirds of young people who access their services report that their housing problems are directly related to sexual orientation or gender identity. 77% of young people say that coming out to their parents was the main factor of becoming homeless”.
69% of the LGBT homeless community have experienced familial rejection, abuse and violence. Despite this, 55 of the 343 local councils in England ask young people for proof from their parents that they are homeless, unless there are claims of abuse. Without these letters, many have found they are unable to receive support from their local councils, as they are labelled as “intentionally homeless”.
Of the 175 councils that took part in a BBC investigation only four said they never contact LGBT people’s parents for proof that they have asked their children to leave home.
Many are too scared or have experienced difficulties in contacting their parents. One person told the BBC: “I was trying to contact my family and get the letter, but they just weren’t cooperating. The council said that without evidence there was nothing they could do”. Some have even been asked for letters after telling the council that they have experienced domestic abuse by their parents.
Some have also found that “A lot of the time, parents will say one thing to the local authority- ‘oh no I have not kicked my son/daughter out’ but, at the same instant tell their children they cannot return home.”
Leading charities say that the system is putting young homeless LGBT people at risk.
A report by the Albert Kennedy Trust found that people identifying as LGBT are also significantly more likely to experience targeted violence, sexual exploitation, substance misuse and physical and mental health issues.
Offences against gay and lesbian rough sleepers has doubled since 2014, and offences against trans people has trebled.
Even if they can access help, they can still be at risk. One source told the BBC that: “I felt I couldn’t be out, if anyone did find out I was gay, something terrible would happen to me.”
Hostels are not always a safe space for people who openly identify as LGBT. “Hostels aren’t always sensitive to people’s needs.” Young LGBT people are far less likely to seek support when they are in a vulnerable position, and even when they do, the services they are referred to are not always equipped with the necessary knowledge or understanding to help.
We have been told by our own service users that there are difficulties with services truly understanding the needs and safety of people identifying as LGBT. One service user said that: “A lot of services are reluctant to help, because they don’t understand and they’re too scared to help in case they get it wrong.”
The government has introduced bespoke training for frontline staff to support those identifying as LGBT. However, the BBC’s research found that training was voluntary and finished at the end of March earlier this year. Only 9 of the 175 local councils that responded confirmed that they have specialist LGBT training.
Though steps have been taken to try and improve the situation- London’s first permanent LGBT shelter was set up last year, there is still a long way to go. Through education and awareness, we can ensure that the complex needs of the LGBT community are met, with the dignity and compassion they deserve.