Updated: Apr 18
Unfortunately, it is often found that identifying as LGBTQ+ is a significant cause of becoming homeless. 24% of homeless youths identify as LGBT, according to a study by the Albert Kennedy Trust. This is an alarming figure, considering that only 2.2% of the UK population identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual in the 2020 annual population survey (APS).
The Stonewall Housing Association, which works to provide safe spaces for those in the LGBTQ+ community, reported that around 60% of those who used their services thought there was a direct link between their homelessness and their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Why are a disproportionate number of homeless people LGBT?
Many young people in the UK struggle with discovering their sexuality and find it hard to come to terms with not fitting into the heteronormative narrative that still permeates our society today. At school, children may be harassed by peers if they don’t seem to fit into the norm or have come out as LGBTQ+.
During these times of vulnerability, some young people are unfortunately unable to find the stability and support they need at home. There are too many stories of teenagers and young adults being forced out of their home after coming out, or due to unbearable homophobia from someone in their household.
These incidents of rejection and abuse have effects throughout these individuals' lives and many adults and older people who identify as LGBTQ+ are still homeless after having these experiences when they were younger, or when coming out more recently.
The BBC 3 documentary series Queer Britain shows how it is not just young people who face difficulties being LGBT. Episode 3, ‘Out On The Streets’, shows two middle aged men, Damien and John, both suffering from past trauma and continual abuse in the present from strangers as they try to keep afloat on the street or in temporary accommodation.
Why is it harder being homeless when LGBT?
Finding help whilst being homeless or preventing the situation arising is made even more difficult for LGBT individuals. Organisations and officials who deal with housing issues can hold their own prejudices, and “many LGBT people suffer harassment, violence or eviction as a result of discrimination based on their sexuality,” reports Shelter Legal England and Wales.
In 2014, the Albert Kennedy Trust report on LGBT Youth Homelessness found only 13% of household providers recognised the needs of homeless LGBT youth; furthermore, only two organisations, not even 3%, had initiatives put in place to assist with the extra help needed by this part of the community.
What is the government response?
In an article by the BBC from March 2020, a spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said that they were:
Conducting research by drawing on the experience of those who are LGBT and currently homeless.
Funding the training of frontline staff to support these individuals with the information from this research.
However, the training was voluntary, and only 9 out of the 175 local councils which responded to the BBC confirmed that they had undergone this specialist training.
What can we do about it?
A great step forward in helping those who identify as LGBT and are homeless is increasing awareness on the issue. Sue Sanders, co-founder of LGBT History month, which falls on February each year, highlights how important awareness for the LGBTQ+ community is: “we need it because the ignorance is profound, and the ignorance has been deliberately done”.
Indeed, there is still a stigma surrounding non-heteronormative identities in many institutions in the UK, as well as blanket society values. The 2018 National LGBT survey found that "more than two thirds of LGBT respondents said they avoid holding hands with a same-sex partner for fear of a negative reaction from others."
These feelings of fear and isolation are heightened when individuals who experience this prejudice face homelessness. Out on the streets, homeless people who identify as LGBTQ+ often face verbal and physical abuse, even from others who are also experiencing homelessness.
Homeless people are already far too overlooked by the public. Those who fall into minority groups face even greater challenges and even less recognition, and so it is essential that they receive significant support.
For many young LGBTQ+ individuals, being homeless is their only option. You can help by looking into organisations such as Stonewall and Albert Kennedy Trust, and you can help us here at Clothing Collective by donating and helping us give homeless people access to essential clothing.
With identity being a large part of the LGBTQ+ community, it is important to us that every person is able to express themselves in the way they wish, no matter their circumstances. We are committed to helping homeless LGBT individuals show their true identity through the way they dress and be able to have the autonomy to pick the clothes they want to wear.
You can donate and help produce clothing vouchers for them to use in charity shops here.