Data collected by LGBTQ+ homeless charity AKT suggests that almost a quarter of young people aged 16 to 25 at risk of homelessness identify as either lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or non-binary. This is despite the fact that only 6.6 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds identify as LGB.
Stonewall research forms a similar picture, indicating that nearly one in five LGBTQ+ people experience homelessness at some point in their lives.
Many LGBTQ+ people experiencing homelessness are cut off from their support networks. Just 13 per cent of people surveyed by AKT felt supported by their parents while homeless, for example, while half of respondents said they worried that they would be evicted for expressing their LGBTQ+ identity.
Specialist support is needed, Stonewall Housing chief executive Steven McIntyre told The Big Issue.
“One of the big questions I get is: ‘Why do you need a queer organisation and why can’t LGBTQ+ people go to mainstream housing and homelessness organisations?’,” he said.
“Very often when LGBTQ+ people go to mainstream services they can be discriminated against.
“Either because the person dealing with them doesn’t understand all of the issues associated with being LGBTQ+ and homeless or because of previous experiences they’ve had they don’t feel able to disclose who they are and that means their needs are not really being met.
“When someone comes to us they are coming to someone who really understands them so we can focus on the housing and homelessness issues and really work on that.”
Everyone experiencing homelessness deserves the opportunity to access support that is right for them. Here are some of the leading charities providing LGBTQ+ support for homeless people.
AKT is the leading charity for young LGBTQ+ people experiencing homelessness. Its aim is to work with young people facing hostile living environments due to their sexuality or gender identity.
Formally known as the Albert Kennedy Trust, the charity was founded in the name of a man who tragically died after falling from the roof of a car park in Manchester after experiencing homophobic abuse.
Originally established in 1988, AKT offers advice from housing specialists, financial support, life skills training and one-to-one mentorship to young people in need. It provides support regionally online and from service centres in London, Bristol the north-west and the north-east.
Some 77 per cent of the young people it works with stated they believed “coming out at home was the main factor causing their homelessness”.
The Outside Project
The Outside Project is a grassroots organisation led by LGBTQ+ ex homeless, homelessness professionals and activists.
Their community shelter, which is based in London, acts as an LGBTQ+ domestic abuse refuge and safe space for “those who feel endangered, who are homeless, ‘hidden’ homeless and feel that they are on the outside of services due to historical and present prejudice in society and in their homes.”
The shelter is based in London but anyone can support the charity by donating online.
Micro Rainbow provides safe housing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex asylum seekers and refugees whilst they’re going through the asylum process. It is the first organisation of its kind to open in the UK.
Its 11 safe houses prevent homelessness and operate from across the country, with four based in London, six in the West Midlands and one in the north-west.
As well as providing housing, the group also offer access to employment, education and social inclusion activities to reduce the feelings of extreme isolation faced by many LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and refugees.
Micro Rainbow’s vision is to “create a world where the LGBTQ+ community are free from discrimination, persecution and have equal opportunities in life, including in accessing employment, training, education, financial services, healthcare, housing, places of faith and public services.”
Stonewall Housing has supported tens of thousands of LGBTQ+ people in finding their way into safe and secure homes across the UK.
Founded in 1983, the charity works to ensure that “lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people live in safer homes, free from fear”.
Marking its 40th anniversary in 2023, Steven McIntyre, the charity’s chief executive, told The Big Issue the charity supports more than 2,000 people every year but is only “scratching the surface”. McIntyre said the charity’s analysis found up to 127,000 people around the country could benefit from its support.
Stonewall Housing provides specialist domestic abuse and mental health support alongside help with housing. That includes supported housing to help people move into an independent life. The charity also runs a national helpline on 08006404404.
What was once an information and support helpline running for five hours every evening in a small room above a bookshop near London’s Kings Cross Station is now a national helpline running from 10am to 10pm every day.
Available to anyone considering issues around their sexuality or gender identity, the helpline offers information and advice on housing and other issues as well as a referral service for lesbians, gay men, bisexual and trans people. The helpline can be reached at 03003300630.
Brighton & Hove LGBT Switchboard
The similarly titled Switchboard in Brighton and Hove opened the seaside resort’s first LGBTIQ+ night shelter in January 2023 as part of a 10-week pilot.
Working in conjunction with Brighton charity The Rainbow Fund, the Outside Project and Stonewall Housing, the shelter offers beds, communal spaces, showering facilities and hot meals for up to 10 guests at a time. Support is also available on site with LGBTQ housing advocates, domestic violence workers and other support services all available.