Report highlights homeless gay community’s needs

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Around 20% of Brighton and Hove’s homeless people are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), a report claims.

The research suggests the LGBT community is over-represented in the homeless population and has negative experiences of local authority homelessness applications.

The project was carried out by Mark Cull from Hove YMCA in partnership with Dr Hazel Platzer and the University of Brighton. Additional funding and support was provided by the Community University Partnership Project, Albert Kennedy Trust, Sir Halley Stewart Trust, Brighton Hove City PCT, City Council and Pride in Brighton Hove.

A total of 44 LGBT young people in Brighton Hove who were homeless or had experience of homelessness participated in the study through interviews and questionnaires. Local housing homelessness service providers were also interviewed or took part in a focus group.

The study found 10% of young people who made contact with Hove YMCA’s Housing Advice service identify as LGBT. Through subsequent contacts project workers estimate the figure is closer to a fifth of homeless young people.

One of the key findings of the study is the extent to which LGBT young people experienced problems at school. Over two thirds reported being bullied and this appeared to be linked to truanting and exclusion from school, and subsequent educational underachievement.

None of the young people had received sex or relationships education at school that was inclusive of LGBT lives.

There was also a high incidence of mental health problems with two thirds of young people having attempted suicide.

The report recommends that earlier preventive work for example in schools and through mental heath services could reduce the incidence of homelessness. This could include provision of mentoring, family mediation and referrals to support groups, as well as tackling homophobia in schools and providing support for young people who are truanting or excluded from school.

Housing services and providers also need more training and awareness to understand the needs of LGBT young people and support them more effectively.

Most young people were in favour of services monitoring sexual and gender identity, if it was done sensitively. Specialist support for LGBT young people in housing projects and within other services could then help alleviate earlier experiences of abuse and homophobia in schools and within families. This might reduce their vulnerability in relation to sexual and mental health and prevent long term patterns of homelessness.

Brighton Hove City Council has already responded to some of the findings by consulting with the research team and developing their forms and procedures to be more effective in meeting the needs of LGBT young people.

Commenting on the findings which were released last week, Mr Cull said: “The launch of the research report has been timely with the City currently developing the new Children and Young Peoples Trust and Youth Homeless Strategy.

“The report should raise awareness amongst service providers and help them identify how they can support LGBT young people more effectively. I particularly hope that schools will respond to the recommendations as we have found that schools generally are not inclusive or safe places for LGBT young people and that their negative experiences in schools are a contributory factor to their later homelessness”.