Local councils are asking young people kicked out of their homes for being LGBT+ for ‘proof’ of their homelessness

LGBT+ homeless youth human trafficking

Local councils in England are asking LGBT+ homeless youth who have been kicked out by their families for letters from their parents as “proof” of homelessness, according to an investigation by The Next Episode podcast and BBC Three.

Young LGBT+ people are disproportionately at risk of family abandonment, homelessness, and human trafficking.

According to the Albert Kennedy Trust, 24 per cent of homeless youth are LGBT+, and of these young people 69 per cent have experienced familial rejection, abuse and violence.

BBC Three and The Next Episode contacted each of the 343 local councils in England. Out of 175 responses, 55 said they required young LGBT+ homeless youth to provide a letter from their parents to prove that they have been kicked out of home, unless there are claims of abuse.

Some young people said, however, that they were still asked for letters even after disclosing the abuse they had suffered.

If they cannot provide a letter, they are either assumed not to be homeless, or to be “intentionally homeless”.

Leigh Fontaine, services manager at the Albert Kennedy Trust, told BBC Three and The Next Episode: “A lot of the time parents will say one thing to the local authority – ‘Oh, no. I’ve not kicked my son or my daughter out’ – but in the same instance they are telling the child they can’t return home.

“I don’t think that local authorities always take homophobic abuse in the home seriously.”

One young person, Saskia (not her real name), was forced out of her home after coming out to her father as trans.

When she told him she was a girl, he hurled homophobic slurs at her and put his hands around her throat. Her mother had recently passed away, and her sibling texted her: “I wish you had died instead of mum.”

At just 16 years old, her dad told her she was no longer welcome in his home, and she escaped with a few possessions to stay with a family friend.

She said: “It was a very strange, scary night. I kept waking up not knowing where I was or what was going to happen to me.”

But when Saskia approached Cornwall council for help, she says she was told she needed a letter from her father confirming that he had kicked her out.

She said: “Obviously I couldn’t message my dad to ask for it, I was just terrified of being in the same place as him.

“I was trying to contact my family to try and get it [but] they just weren’t cooperating.

“The council basically said without evidence there was nothing they could do.”

Saskia bounced around for months, and said: “It was really terrifying to be waking up in a different place and finding out at school who I’m sleeping with that night, when I’d next be moving my stuff and not knowing if I was going to eat that day.”

Cornwall council has denied that it asks for letters as proof of homelessness.

Another young LGBT+ person, Reggie (also not his real name), was put through “hell” by his mother when she found a love letter he had written to another boy when he was 13.

When he was 16 and she was no longer receiving child benefit for him, she kicked him out.

He was also asked for a letter as “proof” of his homelessness, despite the fact that he was sleeping on the streets.

He said: “I felt that the council were against me, as much against me as my own family, and I felt like I didn’t have anywhere to turn.

“I’ve used apps and dating websites to be able to find somewhere to stay for the night if I’m desperate. I’ve felt like I had to have sex with the person I was staying with to be able to stay there.”

A spokesperson for the ministry of housing, communities and local government said: “This government recognises that homelessness amongst LGBT people is an important issue and is determined to understand it better.

“That’s why we are currently undertaking research drawing on people’s experience.

“We are also funding bespoke training for frontline staff to support those identifying as LGBT+ and our findings from this and the research will help us to ensure we are meeting the needs of these individuals.”

But, according to BBC Three and The Next Episode, the training, due to finish this month, was voluntary and just nine of the 175 councils they spoke to have taken part.