Youth Commission: Housing and Homelessness
The LGBT Youth Commission on Housing and Homelessness was set up in 2016 with 10 young people. Their first meeting focused on addressing some of the barriers that LGBT young people face when seeking emergency accommodation or housing support, particularly in the context of domestic abuse from a partner or ex-partner or familial abuse such as homophobic, biphobic and transphobic abuse.
The commission felt that they needed to know more about other LGBT young people’s experiences and undertook peer research to identify the key improvements needed in housing and homelessness in Scotland. They reviewed existing research on LGBT youth homelessness and found that there was no research specific to Scotland.
Albert Kennedy Trust, an LGBT youth homeless charity based in England, conducted research in 2015 and found that:
- LGBT young people are disproportionately represented in the young homeless population. As many as 24% of young homeless people are LGBT.
- 69% of homeless LGBT young people had experienced violence, abuse or rejection from the family home
- 77% state that their LGBT identity was a causal factor in them becoming homeless.
The youth commission then developed consultation workshops for young people and professionals. We consulted over 100 LGBT young people and over 20 professionals from across the Housing and Homelessness Sector.
They then developed a consultation which reached over 100 LGBT young people from across Scotland. The consultation found several key themes affecting access to homelessness support.
Not presenting as homeless to council
- Young people don’t know where to go if they are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
- Many said they would not want to go to their local council because the discussions take place at open desks where members of the public may overhear their personal circumstances.
- Young people feel that the council feels too formal and they do not view it as youth friendly. Others reported being intimidated or fearful of the council.
- Many respondents had a fear of being judged.
LGBT young people had very little awareness about what is understood as intentional homelessness.
- Most young people were not aware that they may be deemed intentionally homeless if they voluntarily leave the family home.
- When young people do not feel comfortable coming out to services, they may not be able to fully describe why they left home to avoid homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic abuse from families, or domestic abuse from partners or ex-partners.
Fearful of disclosing their LGBT identity, ‘coming out’ to support services
- The majority of young people worry about being out to a service
- Stories about poor or negative experiences within services are shared across the LGBT community
- Perceptions about homophobia/ biphobia and transphobia within religious organisations presents a barrier for LGBT young people accessing support and most said they would not be comfortable being ‘out’ to these services.
- More likely to come out if a service is visibly LGBT inclusive.
Trans and non-binary young people face additional barriers to accessing shelters and group accommodation
- Some transgender young people said that they had been denied access to single-sex services.
- Transgender young people using services may face additional prejudice or discrimination from other service users and staff are not always equipped to respond.
- Non-binary people often do not want to access gendered services.
Mediation, which is used to enable young people to return to the family home, is dangerous when they have been rejected by or experienced abuse from the family
- LGBT Young people are deeply concerned by the use of mediation as a prevention strategy which may return the young person to the family home and end up exposing them to further abuse.
Quality of service is a postcode lottery
- Some areas and individual services are getting it right for LGBT young people, but all too often this is a post code lottery.
The LGBT Youth Commission on Housing and Homelessness also consulted with over 20 professionals in order to gain a sense of the challenges housing and homelessness services in terms of responding to LGBT young people’s needs. They found:
Services are not consistently recording sexual orientation and trans identity, and are therefore unaware of how many LGBT young people they support.
- Very few services accurately record or ask about sexual orientation or transgender identity during intake. As a result, services do not know how many LGBT young people they support and may not be aware of additional needs or barriers those young people have.
- We also asked professionals about any additional support they offer LGBT young people and the majority stated that they would refer to an external agency. This would only be possible if they know about the young person’s identity and have services available nearby.
Inconsistent levels of LGBT awareness training
- Almost 50% of housing and homelessness services had not received any LGBT awareness training and are unaware of many of the issues affecting young LGBT people.
Lack of awareness of LGBT domestic abuse
- None of the services we consulted had ever received training on LGBT domestic abuse. We know that many professionals are unaware of the specific issues faced by LGBT survivors of domestic abuse and LGBT people may not recognise their experiences as abuse.
The majority of respondents rated their confidence to support LGBT homeless young people as low
- Housing and homelessness services staff reported that they do not feel confident to support LGBT young people homeless people. This is reflective of the lack of LGBT training received.
Their findings from this research led them to:
- Run workshops at key conferences from homelessness organisations like Shelter Scotland and The Rock Trust in Edinburgh.
- Meet with representatives from different local authorities and the Minister for Local Government and Housing to improve the legislative protection for LGBT homeless people.
- Created and hosted their own exhibition documenting the lived experience of homeless LGBT young people. MSPs and key professionals where invited to the launch and it was open to the general public.