Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Inequality for homosexual homeless

May 18 2009
The needs of homeless LGBT people are often not met by mainstream organisations. Since The Pavement's last article on the Equality Act Amendment, we have received continuous claims that gay and lesbian individuals face discrimination at service centres. Nick van Benschoten, of Sexual Orientation Legislation Team within the Department of Communities and Local Government, responded to our coverage of the Parliamentary debate. He said: "During consultation, the government received evidence that lesbian, gay or bisexual people continue to face discrimination when seeking to buy a private home, rent property and obtain sheltered accommodation, including at residential care facilities or college campuses." Mr Benschoten cited one particular incident, reported by Meg Munn MP, the minister for equality, in a letter to The Times, which then provoked the government review. A young lesbian had been refused emergency accommodation after being thrown out of her family home on the grounds that she had chosen to tell her parents about her sexuality. "The regulations now prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the exercise of public functions and the disposal of public and commercial premises," said Mr Benschoten. But despite being illegal, charities working within this arena claim this discrimination still does exist. Bob Green, acting director of Stonewall Housing said: "Our experience also demonstrates that the needs of homeless LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people are often not met by mainstream organisations. "Fifty per cent of the approximately 1,600 people who have approached us in the last couple of years for housing advice state that their housing crisis is directly related to their sexuality." He added that the new Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, which aims to outlaw discrimination against homosexuals, had not correlated to better outcomes for the community. The organisation had been working to reduce this kind of prejudice for several years. In 2001, Stonewall Housing funded new research into the housing needs of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, which highlighted the stark lack of housing options for young people and the need for specialist housing services. Mr Green said this research reported that being LGBT can be the direct cause of homelessness. "Young people leave home due to homophobia they face at home and school or are thrown out because of their sexuality," he explained. "Young LGBT face homophobia in hostels and other homeless services, with the consequence that some avoid accessing the services they need, others leave the services without getting their needs met or they remain in environments where they are subject to homophobic abuse, harassment or violence." Six years ago this report concluded that there was a clear need for specific services for young LGBT people, where they could feel safe and have the opportunity to become open and relaxed about their sexuality. However, according to recent reports, it would appear this has not been completely resolved. "Young LGBT people find themselves even more vulnerable when homeless, turning to misuse of drugs or alcohol, practising unsafe sex or at increased risk of sexual exploitation, such as providing sex in return for a place to sleep," said Mr Green. "The report highlighted that young and old LGBT people encounter homophobia and invisibility in services, as staff are uncomfortable talking about LGBT issues. "This means people often avoid services or fear being open about their sexuality to the very people being paid to offer them support." Again, the report concluded that there was a need to start monitoring the sexuality of all who access homeless services to ensure that services meet their needs. "LGBT people do face discrimination and abuse in hostels, and also invisibility," said Mr Green. "This has a detrimental affect on LGBT homeless people who avoid the services or remain in the services suffering the abuse or not having their needs met." At present, Stonewall has 41 beds for young LGBT people, with waiting lists that are seldom open. The group is still trying to obtain more funding.
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