How homeless services can be more inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community


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People who identify as LGBTQ+ are at a higher risk of homelessness, with 1 in 5 experiencing homelessness at some point in their lives. But only a small number seek support from their local authority or community organisations.

Those who do look for support from homelessness services can face discrimination and ignorance from the organisations who are supposed to be there to help them. 

Let’s take a closer look at the current state of LGBTQ+ support in homelessness services, and the steps these organisations can take to offer a more inclusive service.

Experiences accessing services

According to national LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity akt, less than half of LGBTQ+ young people approach community services for support while homeless, and only a third reach out to their local authorities. When we look at the experiences of those who do look for support, this is hardly surprising. 

Almost 60% of LGBTQ+ young people faced discrimination from services while they were homeless, and only a fifth felt fully supported while accessing services. Misgendering, deadnaming, and a lack of understanding about the challenges that can lead to homelessness for LGBTQ+ people all contributed to negative experiences of support services. 

Steps towards inclusion

Educate teams

The first step is to make sure teams have specific training on the impact of homelessness on the LGBTQ+ community. Currently, 30% of LGBTQ+ young people feel that service staff don’t know how to support them because of their sexuality or gender identity. 

Complex relationships with family can be a major contributing factor, with 77% of LGBTQ+ youth who have faced homelessness saying that coming out to their parents was the main cause. It’s essential for anyone supporting those facing homelessness to understand how factors like sexuality and gender identity can play into the challenges they face so they can provide properly inclusive support. 

Respect people’s identities

Knowing how someone identifies is really useful for staff to know to provide the best support. Services should create an environment where people feel safe to disclose, and make sure they have space to share their identity and pronouns (e.g., services could provide a textbox for people to write their own response rather than relying on a tickbox list which might not cover every possible identity). 

Staff should then refer back to this information and make sure they’re using it accurately. One in five LGBTQ+ youth reported being misgendered or deadnamed (referring to a trans person as the name they were assigned at birth rather than their new name) while accessing services. This is discriminatory and is likely to cause someone to disengage from the service altogether - respecting identities is key. 

Be mindful of language

You might not think twice about the language you use day to day, but it can have a big impact on those around you. For example, asking someone who presents as male whether they have a girlfriend who can support them makes big assumptions about their sexuality. Asking about a partner instead is a more inclusive choice of language. 

Show your support for the community

For someone who is LGBTQ+ and facing homelessness, reaching out to a support service can take a lot of courage. Outwardly demonstrating your support for all identities can be an easy and effective way of making people feel safe. Even small gestures like displaying the pride flag in your building and adding staff pronouns onto name badges and email signatures can make a huge difference. 

97% of people who accessed support through Stonewall Housing said it’s important for their caseworker to understand what it’s like to be LGBTQ+. Creating a diverse staff team who feel safe to express their own identities can be another major step towards providing effective support for LGBTQ+ groups. 

Ultimately, providing inclusive support for LGBTQ+ people facing homelessness is about continuous education and respect. Listening to each person’s unique story and providing person-first support tailored to them is key to helping them overcome barriers and access the support they need. 

If you or someone you know needs support in Leeds or Bradford, you can find all the information you need about available services here.

Further reading

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