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LGBTQ+ homelessness: ‘It’s upsetting there aren’t more places for me’

Youngsters who identify as LGBTQ+ are four times more likely to experience homelessness - Welsh homelessness charity Llamau is helping trans men like Charlie into secure homes
Llamau prevent Charlie from falling homelessness - now he wants to raise awareness of the issue for trans men. Credit: Charlie Harris/Llamau

A homelessness charity that runs the only LGBTQ+ supported accommodation in Wales has called for greater support for the community after they were met with enough demand to fill 10 more properties.

Llamau launched Ty Pride – a project to house and support LGBTQ+ young people – in late 2019 after End Youth Homelessness Cymru research revealed the group are four times more likely to experience homelessness than their peers. Now they are racing to expand the project to meet demand.

It was only with support from Llamau that Charlie Harris, a trans man, avoided falling into homelessness. 

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The 22-year-old, from Strood, Kent, was left with nowhere to go after a relationship breakdown in 2019 and was forced to move to Wales to live with his mother.

Charlie slept in a makeshift bed in the living room of the house and helped his mother look after his sister and three younger brothers but admitted that arrangement put a strain on the relationship.

He told The Big Issue: “I was basically thrown into my mum’s house but it was really overcrowded so there was the possibility of me becoming homeless through that.

“We didn’t have any personal space. We were on top of each other and it was getting to the point where if we carried on then me and my mum would have fallen out. I don’t think we would have the bond we do now if that was still the case.

“That’s where I found out about Llamau. I hate to think where I would be without their help. I definitely wouldn’t be here, that’s for sure.”

Charlie has since moved into two properties – the latest a flat in Taff’s Well – with the help of Llamau.

We knew that the percentage of LGBTQ+ people having to access our properties because of being homeless was increasing and the research backed up just how much of an issue it was

While Charlie had already come out as trans before seeking support from the charity, he is wary that the positive reaction he received from his family is something other LGBTQ people can’t count on from their own relatives. 

End Youth Homelessness Cymru found that a quarter of Wales’ youth homelessness population identifies as LGBTQ+. Family breakdown was the main cause, with 35 per cent of cases put down to family break-ups compared to 23 per cent for the non-LGBTQ+ population.

Charlie also said a lack of education on how to do simple things like legally changing his name can leave trans people at risk of homelessness.

Speaking ahead of the 12th annual International Day of Transgender Visibility, Sam Lewis, Llamau’s operational director, told The Big Issue: “We knew that the percentage of LGBTQ+ people having to access our properties because of being homeless was increasing and the research backed up just how much of an issue it was.

“It also backed up just how much more vulnerable they were to discrimination, to family breakdown, to stigma and to the additional psychological harms that went alongside trying to be accepted in your community for being you.”

“We know the need is out there and what we’d love to see is the ability to do more of this type of project.”

I definitely would have come out a lot earlier with support

Charlie agreed that more projects like Ty Pride are needed throughout Wales and the rest of the UK.

The 24-hour staffed single property provides support for three people on site – as well as another three people who live elsewhere in the community – who are offered counselling from the charity, Denbighshire County Council and partner Viva.

But as the threat of homelessness grows for LGBTQ+ people across the UK, more than 40 people in need have joined Ty Pride’s waiting list.

Charlie told The Big Issue: “When I came out I didn’t know what to do afterwards – I didn’t know how to change my title, or my name through deed poll and things like that. I’m still on my journey transitioning and I definitely would have come out a lot earlier with support from the charity.

“I can believe that LGBTQ+ people are four times more likely to be homeless. I know that homelessness is a really big thing but I don’t think people realise people in the LGBTQ+ community, people can become homeless because their parents have disowned them and don’t want them in their house anymore.

“My family was a lot better than that if I’m honest. I felt okay coming out to my mum because I had already told her I was bisexual and she was really supportive. And my brothers all call me their brother which genuinely warms my heart. I get the feeling that no matter what my family were going to love me anyway.

“I think people need to be a lot more accepting and there needs to be more things like Ty Pride. I would have gone there first if I knew about it when I came to Wales. I find it upsetting and disappointing that there aren’t more places to help people like me.”