Inside the Status Quo tourbus giving hope to homeless LGBT+ people

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PinkNews recently had the chance to explore the UK’s first LGBT+ only homeless shelter which has given new life to a Status Quo tour bus.

Founder of The Outside Project Carla Ecola took PinkNews behind the scenes at the UK’s first LGBT+ only homeless shelter.

“We started back in February as a group sitting down and talking with different organisations that could offer advice and support on what we needed to do to start the shelter.

“We really got the ball rolling at Pride, promoting the project and seeing if anyone was interested in getting involved.

“The community in London really took it and ran with it and every other day we were going to a fundraiser.”

The charity has recently been the beneficiary’s of cosmetics brand Lush’s monthly fundraisers.

Inside the Status Quo tourbus giving hope to homeless LGBT+ people
One of the many fundraisers for The Outside Project. (Photo: The Outside Project)

Ecola continued: “In the space of only a few months, we completely smashed our target which was to raise enough money to buy the bus.

“I don’t really think anyone was expecting that to happen so soon but it just took on a life of its own and had so much support from the community.”

One of the most remarkable things about the shelter is that it is almost entirely contained within the tour bus, with a lounge and kitchen area onboard.

A group of volunteers from the Outside Project travelled up to Hull in the north of England in order to collect the bus.

The bus had previously hosted the rock band Status Quo on their tours and was most recently used in the funeral of singer and guitarist Rick Parfitt. It has now found a new purpose in the Barking and Dagenham area of East London.

Inside the Status Quo tourbus giving hope to homeless LGBT+ people
An ordinary bus with an extraordinary purpose (Photo: The Outside Project)

Tour buses can cost well over £35,000, but The Outside Project were able to find their new venue for only £8000 thanks to a generous donation from the bus’ previous owner.

The Outside Project was initially due to open next year, however an unexpectedly large wave of support from London’s LGBT+ community has meant that the shelter has now been opened.

“We just kept getting calls from allies and members of the community who had the things we needed which has meant we were able to open this winter.” Ecola said.

“We’re really proud of the community for enabling us to open far earlier than we expected and we’re proud of the volunteers. We’re always going to need more friendly happy faces, but it’s going in the right direction.”

Inside the Status Quo tourbus giving hope to homeless LGBT+ people
The shelter’s living space. (Photo: The Outside Project)

Although comprehensive statistics are difficult to collect, research from the Albert Kennedy Trust has found that a quarter of homeless youth identify as LGBT+.

The Outside Project aims to offer a safe and welcoming space for LGBT+ homeless people in London.

“The shelter specifically being for our community is something that we just need, it’s something we’ve never had,” said Ecola, when asked about why she founded The Outside Project.

“As people who worked in the sector and as people who are LGBTIQ+, through our own experiences and through the experiences of our friends, housing and homelessness is a constant conversation.”

The exact location of the bus will not be released due to fears of vandalism or hate crime, however people in need will be referred to the service from all across London.

LGBT+ homeless people can face specific difficulties when accessing services such as crisis centres, with one painful example detailed by a trans woman in an American shelter this summer.

Ecola said: “Working in the homelessness sector it’s something we could see with queer people accessing the services we worked in and not feeling safe, and not feeling comfortable.”

“They’re obviously walking into a room of people they don’t know and that’s really terrifying, especially if you’ve been the recipient of any kind of hate crime or abuse in the past.”

Inside the Status Quo tourbus giving hope to homeless LGBT+ people
(Photo: The Outside Project)

She continued: “When you’re homeless, the last thing you want to deal with is another attack on your sexuality or gender identity.

“Really we want to try and support our community to have a place of safety but also try and change the sector and change the atmosphere and environments that our community needs to go into to make them more accessible and raise awareness.”

The project will currently be open for an initial two month period, helping service users over Christmas. The project hopes to eventually expand the service and run all year round.

Watch the PinkNews tour of the bus here: