Councils in England have been turning away LGBT people who are homeless, asking them to show proof of their living situation.
The Albert Kennedy Trust, an LGBT youth homeless charity, estimates that LGBT young people under the age of 25 comprise up to 24% of the youth homeless population, of which 69% have experienced violence, abuse or familial rejection. Research by the trust also found that 77% of these young people state their LGBT identity was a causal factor in them becoming homeless, yet crucial services are being cut.
BBC Three contacted all 343 local councils in England. 55 were found to be asking LGBT young people to obtain a letter from their parents, in order to prove that they can no longer stay at home due to their sexuality or gender identity.
The exception to this is if there are claims of abuse. However, some young people interviewed by the BBC claimed they have been asked to provide letters, despite telling the council they are victims of domestic abuse by their parents.If LGBT young people are unable to obtain the required evidence, they are left unsupported by their local councils. They are not believed to be homeless, or are labelled as “intentionally homeless”. Of the 175 councils that responded, only 4 stated they never contact the parents of young people identifying as LGBT to ask for this proof.
The Albert Kennedy Trust is regularly involved in cases where the local authority is told by parents that they have not kicked out their child, while simultaneously telling the child they cannot return home. The charity claims council officers do not fully understand the extent to which being LGBT increases an individual’s vulnerability.Leading charities say that LGBT young people are being put at risk by the system. They are significantly more likely than other young homeless people to experience substance misuse, sexual exploitation and targeted violence while homeless; as well as physical and mental health problems.
One young person interviewed by the BBC was kicked out by his mother aged 16 because he was gay, and she was no longer receiving child benefit for him. He described feeling as though he did not have anywhere to turn. As a result, he started using dating websites and apps to be able to find somewhere to stay for the night in return for sex.
According to the Local Government Association, “unprecedented funding pressures” mean they are becoming “increasingly limited in what they can do”. They also claim that over two thirds of council homelessness services are now being “forced” to spend more on homelessness than they budgeted for.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said it has funded bespoke training to better support those identifying as LGBT. However, this training was voluntary: of the 175 councils who responded to the BBC’s questions, only nine confirmed they have had specialist homelessness training. The spokesperson added that they are providing £437 million in 2020/2021 to councils in order to tackle homelessness by providing around 2,600 more bed spaces. Others, however, believe the root of the issue is the failure to understand the needs of LGBT people facing homelessness, and there should therefore be more of a focus on training staff.
Helen Hayes, Labour MP for Dulwich and West Northwood, says, “The government should introduce mandatory training for all frontline staff working in homelessness” as only then can they offer appropriate support and protection.
It is clear that more needs to be done to address the issue of homelessness among LGBT individuals. Through struggling to access the right support, there is an increased likelihood that their needs will become more complex; thereby making a difficult situation even more challenging.
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