insights

Getting ready for London pride: #SH30/11

 

This is number 11 in a series of 30: Stonewall Housing at 30.

Posted on 29 June 2013 by Bob Green

Our birthday wishes: #SH30/10

1983 was a memorable year for many reasons: Margaret Thatcher was re-elected as Prime Minister; spending cuts were announced; and over 140,000 council homes were sold off under Right to Buy legislation.

It was the year that ‘Jenny lives with Eric and Martin’ was published and homophobic scare stories were printed in the press about AIDS as “the gay plague” and about “loony left” councils funding gay groups.

1983 was also the year Stonewall Housing started.

Now, 30 years later, we continue to play a unique role in the social housing sector. Our challenge to our colleagues in the sector is this: you can make it a birthday to remember by making these five birthday wishes come true. 

Firstly, get to know us. There are millions of lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people: of different sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, ethnicity, family units, religious beliefs, background and social status. LGBT people live in your homes and work in your organisation. However, we may not be vocal if we are unsure about the reaction we will receive if we make a complaint or a suggestion. To find out about us you need to ask about sexual orientation or gender identity: but be sure to do it confidentially and in a welcoming, supportive environment.  If you are really committed to a personalised approach to care and support, then place sexual orientation and gender identity at the heart of our care and support package.

Secondly, understand us. We have our differences, but we have common experiences. Many of us are homeless because of our sexual orientation or gender identity. We may lose contact with family and friends when we come out. We may fear negative reaction from services and avoid them even though we may rely on them more. We may experience homophobic, biphobic and transphobic harassment and abuse in and around our homes, where we are meant to feel safest. Over 60% of those who ask Stonewall Housing for advice say that their housing problem is directly related to their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Thirdly, consider us. Just like thousands of others, LGBT people are dealing with poverty, reduced income and fewer housing options, but certain policies and strategies may affect our communities differently.  To build trust with LGBT people you need to be aware of how organisational, local, regional and national policies are impacting on our communities. Stonewall Housing is able to identify emerging issues facing our communities. There is, for example, a need for emergency accommodation for rough sleepers and those experiencing domestic abuse and harassment. We can also share the specific needs and aspirations of our communities and how unsuitable housing and poor care or support is impacting on our health and mental health.

Fourthly, engage with us. All your staff, board members, volunteers, resident representatives and contractors should undergo training about LGBT housing issues. It should be part of a wider organisational awareness campaign that includes engagement with LGBT staff and clients, a review of your organisational policies and a change in culture that welcomes LGBT people. To help make this happen, talk to us, listen to us and support LGBT specialist agencies, who may know more about our needs and be able to help deliver the best services.

Finally, design services with us, not just in mind, but in person. Commissioners and providers should consider developing LGBT-specific housing, care and support services, in partnership with LGBT agencies and across different areas or nationally if that’s the most cost-effective approach.  LGBT people should be able to access all services, but some will prefer or thrive on services provided by, and for, their own communities. We’ve been doing this for 30 years now and we can give you advice and assistance about developing services with our communities. For instance, check out our LGBT Domestic Abuse Forum and Older LGBT Housing Group that aim to improve practices and develop services for our communities.

And then, let’s celebrate our successes and learn from our mistakes. 

If you can make our birthday wishes come true, LGBT people will benefit from better housing, care and support services, and have the safe and secure spaces they need to achieve their full potential.

This is number 10 in a series of 30: Stonewall Housing at 30.

Posted on 25 June 2013 by Bob Green

Thanks for the birthday wishes: SH30/9

We are 30 this year: thanks to all the organisations who have sent us their birthday wishes!

If you want to add your organisation's name to the list, drop us an email at weare30@stonewallhousing.org.

We'll be making an even bigger poster later in the year!

This is number 9 in a series of 30: Stonewall Housing at 30.

Posted on 14 June 2013 by Bob Green

Because Equality Matters: SH30/8

At the beginning of June, after two days of debate, the House of Lords voted by more than two to one to back government plans for same sex marriages in England and Wales.

The vote was heralded by campaigners as a victory for “love, marriage and equality”.

 

At the same time, and out of the spotlight, new government proposals for the regulation of social housing and changes to legal aid threaten to undermine the hard fought equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people. 

 

“We have a number of concerns about the new proposals for the regulation of social housing,” Bob Green, Chief Executive of Stonewall Housing, said. “We believe the regulator should have a key role in ensuring that all members of the public, including LGBT people, benefit from social housing: this needs to be stated explicitly in its terms of reference.” 

 

“We also believe that any measure of public value used by the regulator should consider equality implications,” he continued. “There should be contingency measures in place to protect those providers who cater for people with protected characteristics. And we would like more information about how the regulator will positively encourage and promote private investment in social housing that benefits LGBT people.”

 

Stonewall Housing has also responded to the Government’s consultation on the transformation of legal aid. If enacted, these will have a drastic impact on the access of LGBT people to justice. 

 

“We believe choice should be enshrined in the legal aid system,” Michael Nastari, Advice Team Manager at Stonewall Housing. “We have identified key partners and law firms that understand LGBT issues, have a history of working with LGBT people, and have developed trust with our communities. Under the proposals, LGBT people will no longer have that choice: they will have to accept representation from a legal firm, regardless of whether or not it understands their issues.”

 

The new proposals will also remove the right to legal aid of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants if they have been in the UK for less than 12 months. As a result, more LGBT people will be exposed to insecurity, exploitation and danger, and may have to remain in unsafe situations, with violent relatives or partners. 

 

“Another concern,” Bob Green added, “is that the changes to legal aid will mean that lawyers will spend more time fighting costs or assessing the eligibility of cases, rather than fighting the case itself: this may prevent them taking a number of cases, which will mean that the risk of unlawful practices by public bodies will continue unchecked.”

 

“We do not believe that the Ministry of Justice has adequately considered the impact of these proposals on lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people,” he continued. “We would recommend that a full equality impact analysis of the proposals be carried out before they are implemented. Otherwise, we fear that the hidden costs of the changes will far outweigh any savings made to the public purse.”

 

This is number 8 in a series of 30: Stonewall Housing at 30.

Posted on 11 June 2013 by Bob Green

The advice we provide: #SH30/7

Every year, we provide specialist housing advice to hundreds of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people. Here is a snapshot of who we advised last year and why they came to us for advice.

 

If you want more information about the advice we provide, and the numbers of LGBT people who have used our service, please contact us. 

Coming soon will be more details about the advice we've provided this year, as well as between 2007 and 2012. 

Download a copy of this infographic.

download PDF

This is number 7 in a series of 30: Stonewall Housing at 30.

Posted on 7 June 2013 by Bob Green

Category advice

Tyrone's story: #SH30/6

L&Q recently published a case story featuring one of the young people who lived in one of our supported homes.

 

You can read Tyrone's story here: 

This is number 6 in a series of 30: Stonewall Housing at 30.

Posted on 5 June 2013 by Bob Green

Category case studies

Exploring older LGBT housing: #SH30/5

This is a short introduction to our older lesbian, gay bisexual and trans housing group.

 

For more information about the group, please contact Tina Wathern.

Posted on 30 May 2013 by Tina Wathern

Category older LGBT housing

Take one small step: #SH30/4

We need volunteers to support older LGBT people in London: can you help?

 

Sign up: your community needs you: http://svy.mk/10TkPOC

Find out more about One Small Step: http://bit.ly/11eEsm0

This is number 4 in a series of 30: Stonewall Housing at 30.

Posted on 24 May 2013 by Tina Wathern

Category older LGBT housing

ROAR: because silence is deadly: #SH30/3

Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT*) people experience domestic abuse from partners, ex-partners, intimate contacts or extended family members.

We want to learn from LGBT survivors about that experience, when asking for help, support, advice or accommodation. 

We want to find out if the law has been put into practice.  Do some LGBT people continue to face additional hurdles when seeking help? What are those barriers? What are the consequences of delay? We are diverse and different in many ways, but the one thing we all deserve is equality, dignity and respect when we are most vulnerable.

If you are a survivor of domestic abuse we want to hear your voice. 

If you do one thing today, Roar: because silence is deadly.    

Answer the survey: http://svy.mk/YVSOHS

 

Download more information here.

 

This is number 3 in a series of 30: Stonewall Housing at 30.

Posted on 16 May 2013 by Maria Sookias

Category LGBT domestic violence

One Small Step: #SH30/2

Stonewall Housing has been selected as a finalist in the Ageing Well Challenge Prize run by Nesta, the UK's innovation foundation, and funded by the Cabinet Office.

One Small Step, by Stonewall Housing.

 

One Small Step is a project that aims to make it easier for volunteers in London to help isolated older LGBT people with small day-to-day tasks, like going shopping for groceries or walking the dog. We plan to use social networking to help facilitate volunteering, and to connect people in their local area. 

 

"With One Small Step we have the opportunity to reduce isolation in older LGBT communities, to encourage a wide diversity of volunteers, and to positively affect the live of individual LGBT people," Bob Green, Chief Executive of Stonewall Housing said.

 

The video (above) was originally submitted to Nesta as part of our successful proposal for funding for One Small Step.

If you want to use the service, or want to volunteer, please register here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2V3YCTD

 

For further information about One Small Step, please contact Tina Wathern at Stonewall Housing.

 

About the Ageing Well Giving Challenge
  • The Giving Challenges have been set up to encourage community innovation in the giving of time, skills and resources for social good. They are funded by the Cabinet Office and will see one idea from each of the challenges awarded £50,000;
  • For each challenge, 25 entries were shortlisted, and given the support and opportunity to develop a detailed plan for their idea;
  • Five finalists, with the potential for sustainability and scale, have now been selected to test their ideas. They will receive up to £10,000 and professional advice to set up and test their projects before a winner for each challenge is selected in November 2013 and awarded £50,000;
  • Ageing Well Challenge Prize tasks organisations and groups to develop ideas to reduce the isolation and/or increase the mobility of vulnerable older people by creating new opportunities for people to give time, skills and resources. 

This is number 2 in a series of 30: Stonewall Housing at 30.

Posted on 8 May 2013 by Tina Wathern

Category older LGBT housing

Stonewall Housing at 30: #SH30/1

This year is our 30th birthday. This week, we have started issuing food vouchers for LGBT people who are in financial hardship.

As the welfare reforms start to bite, this is the reality of life for many of our clients in 2013: hunger, poverty and uncertainty. Although we’ve achieved much, it doesn’t feel like an appropriate time to celebrate.  

 

Thirty years ago, Stonewall Housing was set up against a backdrop of homophobia. The age of consent was still 21. It was illegal for gay men to have sex in a house if there was another person in the building. There were no hostels for young homeless lesbians or gay men. So a group of enlightened individuals decided to change this and started a housing association, working with Islington Council to open two houses offering temporary accommodation for homeless lesbians and gay men. 

 

“We called it Stonewall Housing Association, because if you were lesbian gay, bisexual or trans, you knew what it was,” Peter Davey, one of the founding members of Stonewall Housing recalled. “So those that knew what Stonewall meant, got it and those that didn’t know thought, ‘what a marvellous name for a housing association’.” 

 

Stonewall Housing was the first organisation in the UK to use Stonewall in its name: and we’re proud to have served the lesbian, bisexual, gay and trans communities ever since. 

 

Our original focus was on young homeless people. Now, 30 years on, our focus is broader. We still provide supported housing to over 50 young LGBT people every year. But we do much more than that: we provide specialist housing advice to over 1,200 LGBT people every year; we run partnership projects for young LGBT people, we host groups to promote discussion around domestic abuse and to improve housing options for older LGBT people and we seek to improve services provided by other organisations through lobbying, training and consultancy work which is shaped by the individual experiences of our clients. We’ve recently also been awarded funding by the Cabinet Office through Nesta to develop a unique project that seeks to end the isolation of older LGBT people.

 

“Housing is not better or worse for LGBT people today,” Bob Green, CEO of Stonewall Housing says. “It’s different. People have different and more varied needs. Many are facing real financial hardship, are struggling to pay their rent and lack extended family support at times of crisis. Others are part of the hidden homeless. And isolation, particularly of older LGBT people, is a growing issue. 

 

“Despite legal changes for the better, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia continue to affect thousands of LGBT people,” Bob Green continued. “While we’re proud of turning 30, if we had one birthday wish, it would be this: safe spaces for all LGBT people. That would be worth celebrating.”

 

Between May and October 2013, we will be producing a number of statements and planning some events to celebrate our anniversary and raise awareness of the housing issues faced by LGBT people.  Please contact us for more information: info@stonewallhousing.org 

 

This is number 1 in a series of 30: Stonewall Housing at 30.

Posted on 3 May 2013 by Bob Green

Food bank

We are now a referral agent for the foodbank scheme.

We will issue you with vouchers that can be exchanged for shopping bags full of essential foodstuffs at various foodbanks. For the moment, this scheme is only available for LGBT people in financial hardship living in the following boroughs:

  • Barking and Dagenham
  • Hammersmith and Fulham
  • Lewisham
  • Kensington and Chelsea
  • Newham
  • Redbridge
  • Richmond
  • Vauxhall
  • Waterloo
  • Wimbledon

We expect that the following three boroughs will be added to this list soon:

  • Islington
  • Hackney
  • Wandsworth

For further information , please contact us on 020 7359 5767 or info@stonewallhousing.org.

Further information about the scheme can be found at the Trussell Trust web site.  

Posted on 30 April 2013 by Maria Sookias

Category services

Developing pan-London services

We want to build on the success of our work, and are aiming to develop four new partnership projects.

In the last 30 years, we’ve housed and / or given housing advice to over 14,000 LGBT people from every London borough. We want to build on the success of our work, and are aiming to develop four new partnership projects: for LGBT advice and support; for LGBT domestic abuse advice; for young LGBT people; and to improve services for LGBT people who have experienced domestic abuse. 

LGBT advice and support project: many LGBT people can’t rely on traditional family networks. We believe a targeted housing support service can help to reduce their social isolation, and ensure they can sustain their tenancies and achieve their full potential. We’ll do this by developing a partnership with Shelter, Advice UK’s BME Advice Network, and the Royal Association for Deaf People, so that LGBT people will receive the best housing advice, tenancy sustainment, and group support programmes. 

LGBT domestic abuse partnership: our role in the partnership is to deliver AQS standard housing advice via our phone line, virtual helpline and our drop-in surgeries, so we can support survivors of sexual and domestic violence. We’ll also take an active role in developing contacts with refugees and other housing providers, so LGBT people who have experienced domestic violence are able to access safe, appropriate accommodation. 

LGBT Jigsaw: many young LGBT people are unable to access advice, advocacy and support services from mainstream service providers. Our role in this partnership is to lead three other LGBT organisations (Albert Kennedy Trust, Galop and Pace), while providing AQS standard housing advice and advocacy, as well as  supported accommodation. We also provide advice and advocacy for survivors of domestic abuse and harassment, one-to-one and group work support, tenancy sustainment, training and developing employment opportunities. 

LGBT domestic abuse forum: unlike the partnership, the forum acts at a second-tier level, strengthening links between researchers and voluntary and statutory agencies, in order to improve services for LGBT people who’ve experienced domestic abuse. We keep organisations updated and informed about the latest research, best practice and significant policy changes as a result of the 2012 Equality Act. 

Remember, our advice line is open on 0207 359 5767, or you can drop-in to one of our surgeries every week. All venues are accessible, and interpreters are available on request.


Posted on 23 November 2012 by Bob Green

Category services

An issue of privacy?

How safe is the private rented sector for LGBT people?

Every year, thousands of LGBT people contact Stonewall Housing for help and advice. Most say that the housing problems they’re facing are related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Increasingly, more LGBT people are having to rent their homes from a private landlord, whether because of the lack of affordable housing, or because of the increasing tendency of local authorities to discharge their duty to house people in need. But how safe is the private rented sector for LGBT people? 

The simple answer is that, for many LGBT people, it isn’t. For example, even though more LGBT people living in private rental accommodation tend to be in full-time employment, over 40% still feel insecure and / or were facing eviction from their homes. 

Sexual orientation and gender identity are not simply private issues. They are core to someone’s identity. Unfortunately, LGBT people still face daily harassment and abuse because of who they are. Sometimes it’s from their landlord. Sometimes it’s from people who they’re living with. Often it’s from neighbours or people with whom they share a house. Others have to deal with inappropriate language from letting agents. 

So safety is a key issue. Another is security of tenure. Tenancy agreements tend to be weighted in favour of the landlord: for LGBT tenants, this can make their homes  even more insecure. If an LGBT tenant is being abused, and is unable to leave their home because of the length of notice period, then they can become effectively imprisoned within their home. 

We are also concerned about those LGBT people living in private rented homes who are on benefits. Over one in three people who ask us for advice can no longer afford their rent. We expect those numbers to grow as the new welfare rules are introduced. Homelessness for our community is a growing issue: 10% of those who contact us are living on the streets.

But we’re also concerned about the impact of some of these new rules. Take, for example, the rule that says that people under 35 will only be entitled to the shared accommodation rate of housing benefit. As a consequence, it means that people under 35 will need to share with others. 

For transgender people, this will mean that they have to share with people - who may well be complete strangers - who are openly, and aggressively intolerant. At a time when they most need a supportive, welcoming environment, transgender people in this situation will be open to transphobic abuse. 

A final thought around private rented accommodation is not confined to LGBT tenants: the quality of homes. Over one in ten of LGBT people who are renting privately call us because of the poor standard of their home. Just as the Decent Homes initiative helped to improve the quality of social housing, so there needs to be a drive to improve the quality of private rented accommodation, so that it becomes a tenure of choice, and not because it is the only available option. 

So what do we want to see happen? We think the private sector can be a safe space for LGBT people. But, and it’s a big but, we think:

  • rent deposit schemes need to be more accessible, so that the private rented sector becomes more affordable;
  • tenancy agreements need to be more flexible, so that if abuse or harassment happens, then people are able to escape, without financial penalties;
  • more landlords should be encouraged and supported to accept those LGBT people who are receiving benefits;
  • private landlords should be offered training and guidance so they can be more aware of LGBT issues;
  • there needs to be more regulation of the quality and management of the private rented sector (although, bearing in mind the current ‘light touch’ approach to housing providers, we won’t hold our breath about this one!).

We would welcome working with private landlords, so they can understand the issues that LGBT people face on a daily basis. We’re already working with Shelter, the Housing Quality Network and the Chartered Institute of Housing to drive up standards and promote good practice within the social housing sector. We think the same should happen in the private rented sector, so that all LGBT people can feel safe and secure in their homes. 

This article originally appeared on The Guardian's housing network blog

 

Posted on 24 October 2012 by Bob Green

Category services

From street to Stonewall Housing

When Jamie came out, his Mum's boyfriend said he'd be a bad influence on his sisters. "He said I was disgusting. He told my Mum that she had to choose between me or him," he recalls. "She chose him."

Jamie was 16 years old at the time. Over the next three years, he moved 24 times, staying on friends’ sofas, or staying with older ‘boyfriends’. “It got to the point,” he says, “where I’d just sleep with a guy so that I could have somewhere to sleep. And then I always felt under pressure to please them, in case they got tired of me and wanted me to move on.

He turned to drink. He turned to drugs. And then he turned to us. We were able to provide him with a supported home, a safe space to make plans for his future.

Every year, thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, like Jamie, contact Stonewall Housing for advice. Increasingly, many of them are homeless or rough sleepers, forced out of their homes because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The number of homeless LGBT people is not known. Many remain invisible because, like Jamie, they survive by living in unsafe situations. Unless they find an organisation they trust and that understands their situation.

Some local authorities have recognised the needs of LGBT people, but they are few and far between. Stonewall Housing is the largest provider of LGBT-specific accommodation in the UK, but we are only able to provide 41 safe spaces for young LGBT people in four London boroughs. We also offer a unique housing advice service to LGBT people of all ages, as well as floating support to older people.

If a homeless LGBT person isn’t aware of our services they face a lottery. Many local authorities will not be aware of the sexuality or gender identity of the homeless person sitting in front of them. Few will have practical policies in place that will support the individual.

It may be more efficient and effective to address LGBT homelessness through joint commissioning of services. Housing, care and support providers from across the country have begun to discuss LGBT housing, care and support issues. We have provided guidance to the Chartered Institute of Housing and the Housing Quality Network about how housing providers can improve services for LGBT people. More coordination is needed to discuss the provision of specific services, and to improve awareness of LGBT housing need.

On World Homeless Day, it’s instructive to look at positive examples, such as the affordable supported housing project for older LGBT people based in Los Angeles. We have been approached by groups from countries as far apart as Serbia and Trinidad who would like to set up projects like ours. In these times of economic hardship and political indifference, we will have to continue to inspire each other.

It is vital that we don’t simply focus on LGBT homeless issues for just one day. Our message to commissioners, frontline workers and housing officials is this: talk with us. Discuss our concerns. We come from all ethnic groups. We have a variety of religious beliefs. We may have disabilities, we may have children. Unfortunately, we, too, experience homelessness.

We need the support of the public, voluntary and private sectors to help us identify the size of the problem of LGBT homelessness. Then we can work together, locally, nationally and internationally to end the problem, and to shape services that meet the needs of LGBT people.  

This article originally appeared on the Homeless Link web site, as part of World Homeless Day.

Posted on 12 October 2012 by Bob Green

Category services

« Previous page Next page »