The statistics around harassment and discrimination are unacceptable in a country that we often consider to be progressive”

BY HARRIET ARGENT

More than half of homeless LGBTQI young people faced discrimination and harassment from services designed to help them, according to a report by akt. 

In their latest survey of 161 LGBTQI young people in the UK, the LGBTQI homelessness charity found that 59% had faced some form of discrimination when accessing services while homeless. 

The majority were attempting to access housing, mental health and welfare support services but found it difficult to get adequate help because of their LGBTQI identity. 

The report also found less than half of participants felt service staff understood why they had become homeless, and only 20% felt fully supported by such services.

Furthermore, three in 10 of those surveyed felt like the services they accessed did not understand what to support them with because of their LGBTQI identity, and around 27% faced discrimination for being gay, 20% for being trans and 13% for being bisexual.

A NEED FOR INVESTIGATION?

The fact these services, which are built to support people at their most vulnerable, are failing to not only provide adequate care for young LGBTQI people but are discriminating against them because of their identity is shocking.

Jo Bhandal, Campaigns, Policy and Research Lead at AKT, agreed there needed to be a review into these services and urgent action should be taken.

“The statistics around harassment and discrimination are unacceptable in a country that we often consider to be progressive in terms of equal rights for LGBTQ+ people,” they said.

“It shows that despite legal protections such as the Equality Act 2010, young people still feel they are being discriminated against because of who they are.”

Jo added the coverage and discussion around homelessness in the UK seemed to be dominated by a singular view of rough sleepers who tended to be cis, older, white and male. They said homelessness, in general, does not get the coverage it deserves, and when it does, it is often through a very specific lens.

A MORE INCLUSIVE SERVICE

The majority of young people surveyed in this report had already suffered trauma as a result of their identity before they attempted to access these services. Over half said they had felt frightened or threatened by family members before becoming homeless and one in five experienced this from romantic partners. 

In addition, almost a fifth of young LGBTQI people felt they had to have casual sex to stay somewhere while homeless. 

Jo believes the statistics show the need for more inclusive service delivery which recognises the particular vulnerabilities of LGBTQI young people. “We need services to be able to step in to prevent homelessness but also to stop young people from experiencing a lifetime of homelessness,” they said. 

They also warned levels of homelessness are only likely to increase further when the temporary eviction ban is lifted post-Covid, so it is even more vital these services take action now.

This report is a sobering reminder of the miles our community has to cross before achieving equality and paints a striking but ugly picture of what it is truly like to be a vulnerable, queer young person living in the UK, and we need to keep talking about it. 

@HarrietRArgent.

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