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

Defining safe spaces

On 22 September, the LGBT domestic abuse forum will host the first ever conference on improving services for trans survivors of domestic abuse.

The conference, which is being run in partnership with Galop, Gendered Intelligence, Gender Matters and Broken Rainbow UK, aims to answer the question: what does a perfect service look like? 

The conference will feature speakers from across the UK, including Dr Catherine Donovan, Reader in Sociology at the University of Sunderland, who is recognised as the leading expert in domestic violence in LGBT communities. There will also be three workshops that will identify best practice in service provision, create an action plan to engage with trans communities about domestic abuse and develop ideas around safe spaces for trans survivors of domestic violence. 

Prior to the debate, the forum is conducting some online research, asking respondents to define what a safe service would look like to them. Your views would be welcome. 

The LGBT domestic abuse forum is hosted by Stonewall Housing and works with its members for better services to LGBT victims and survivors of domestic abuse. 

For further information about how you can attend the conference, please contact Maria Sookias at Stonewall Housing.

Posted on 14 September 2012 by Maria Sookias

Category LGBT domestic violence

Twelve steps to becoming a better LGBT landlord

Writing in The Guardian, Bob Green provides twelve steps for housing professionals to help their organisations becoming the best service providers possible for LGBT people.

Those twelve steps in short: 

1    Compliance

2    Leadership

3    Internal campaigning

4    Data collection

5    Build trust

6    Understand the issues

7    Policies

8    Partners

9    Promotion

10  Service design

11  Shaping care and support

12  Share your story

You can read the full article on The Guardian.

For information about how Stonewall Housing can help your housing association to provide better services for your LGBT tenants, contact Hamish or Bob

Posted on 25 July 2012 by

Category LGBT housing training

Practice safe housing!

Thank you to everyone who marched with us at World Pride, and to everyone who supported us. We made sure that everyone knew the importance of practising safe housing! There's more photos available to view on our Facebook page. 

Posted on 18 July 2012 by Bob Green

Walking Group for World Pride

Stonewall Housing is forming a Walking Group for World Pride 2012, which takes place in London on 7 July.

We'll be holding an Orientation Meeting for Volunteers during the week before Pride - for more information contact us on 0207 359 6242.

We're also planning to have a stall at Trafalgar Square - come visit us!

Posted on 8 May 2012 by Bob Green

Older LGBT People's Housing Group

Tina Wathern recently joined the Stonewall Housing as LGBT Older Person's Co-ordinator. In an increasingly ageing population, it may seem strange that there is no provision for, or even research into, housing wants and needs of older LGBT people. With initial funding for three years from Comic Relief, Stonewall Housing recently appointed Tina Wathern as LGBT Older Persons Co-ordinator. Tina will be creating and developing a project that will enable older LGBT people to:
  • share their positive and negative experiences of current housing, care and support services;
  • access advice and support to prevent isolation and tackle harassment and abuse;
  • shape policy and practices on a local, regional and national level;
  • act as a resource for researchers, providers, policy and decision makers;
  • enhance their own skills and knowledge through involvement in the management of innovative projects;
  • confront developers and commissioners with their preferences for housing, care and support services and seek to improve the evidence base of need;
  • develop best practice guides and charter mark for providers of services which will improve housing, care and support services offered to LGBT people;
  • influence what services will be developed in the future, e.g. a new cohousing project for older LGBT people or LGBT people of various ages.

Posted on 30 April 2012 by Hamish McDonald

Category older LGBT housing

Become a stakeholder partner

We would like to invite you to become a Stakeholder Member of The National LGB&T Partnership

Stonewall Housing is a member of the National LGB&T Partnership, an England-wide group of LGB&T voluntary and community organisations who are committed to reducing health inequalities and challenging homophobia and transphobia within public services and aim to ensure that tackling health inequalities experienced by LGB&T people is kept high on the Government’s agenda and that best use is made of the experience and expertise found within the LGB&T voluntary and community sector.

The Partnership also aims to ensure the sustainability of the LGB&T sector so it can engage with government and statutory bodies, such as the Department of Health, at a strategic level to improve service delivery.

The Partnership complements the work of the Consortium of LGB&T VCOs by responding to key areas of policy development that affect LGB&T individuals as well as policy that impacts on our sector and has the Consortium’s support. When our work crosses into policy impacting the sector rather than individuals we work closely together.

The Partnership is establishing a National Stakeholder Group.  Membership is free and is open to all interested groups, organisations, service providers and individuals.  The Stakeholder Group will increase the pool of expertise and lived experiences that we can feed into our consultation engagements.  We hope to engage with stakeholders by giving you the opportunity to engage in policy and service development, benefiting from your experience; by sharing our learning and consultation responses and by keeping you informed of our commitments and achievements.

To join the Stakeholder Group please email us and we will add your address to our distribution list. 

Posted on 1 April 2012 by Richard Howard

Category forums

Tai's story

"I was 18 years old when I left home to live with my girlfriend. My Mum and I weren't getting on very well: she kept interfering in my life all the time. She wanted to know where I was going to, who I was going with. She didnít trust me at all and I just couldnít handle it any more.

"It was ok living with my girlfriend for a bit, but we ended up spending all our time together and we started arguing a lot. She used to get really angry. Then she would become violent towards me, hitting me and pushing me around. 

"I eventually left her after we’d had a really big row. I had nowhere to go, so I ended up sleeping on different friends’ floors. That was really awful. I couldn’t sleep properly. I had to carry my stuff around with me all the time because I didn’t have anywhere to leave anything. I started falling out with my friends, because they got annoyed with me being around all the time.

"When they said I couldn’t stay any more, I went to my local Connexions Centre in Lewisham. One of their advisors told me about Stonewall Housing. I wanted to be able to live on my own, and living with other gay people sounded like it might be all right.

"Getting a place with Stonewall Housing has meant that I’ve finally got my own space. I can walk down the street with my head held high. At the moment, I’m on benefits, but I’m volunteering at a vets practice and doing a singing course one evening a week. I want to work in the care field, or with animals. I’m also writing songs in my spare time.

"I used to hate being different. I felt like I was weird. Living with other young gay people in Stonewall Housing has helped me realise I’m not alone. Some of them have had similar experiences to me, and that’s really helped. Being somewhere I’m accepted with people who understand me has really helped me feel better about myself and my sexuality."

Posted on 14 March 2012 by Bob Green

Jamie's story

"I was 16 years old, and living at home, when I came out as gay to my Mum, and her boyfriend. He said I was disgusting. He told be I'd be a bad influence on my sisters. He wanted me to leave. He said to my Mum that she had to choose between me or him: she chose him.

"Over the next three years, my life went downhill. I moved 24 times. I stayed on friends sofas all over the country. And when that wasn’t ok, I ended up staying with older ‘boyfriends’. It got to the point where I’d sleep with a guy just so 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. I never felt secure. I never knew how long I’d be staying.

"I was drinking lots. I was taking lots of drugs. I didn’t think about what I was doing and I know I upset a lot of people. I lost lots of friends: it’s why I ended up moving all over the country. It wasn’t a nice time. First I was selling myself to get money. Then I ended up selling myself to get drinks and drugs.

"Eventually I realised I had to get help with my housing. If I didn’t, I’d never sort my life out. A friend told me about Stonewall Housing, so I checked them out online, and then got in contact with their advice line. One of their advisors referred me to their supported housing.

"Now I’ve got a stable place to live in for the first time, thanks to Stonewall Housing. I don’t have to keep anyone else happy just to have a roof over my head. I can talk with my supported housing officer about anything that worries me. I’m on benefits at the moment, but I’m concentrating on getting my life back on track. I want to get a good job, or get on a training course. Now I can plan for the future."

Posted on 13 March 2012 by Bob Green

Category case studies

How to apply for a Hardship Fund

Stonewall Housing is an approved Referral Agent for the Terrence Higgins Trust’s Hardship Fund, which can award up to £250 to people living with HIV and who are in financial hardship.  Please contact us for more information or to make an application to the Fund.

Posted on 6 March 2012 by Bob Green

Category services

Isaac's story

"I'm 16 years old and originally from Jamaica, although I've lived in Waltham Forest for most of my life. I was having some trouble at home, as my Dad couldn't accept my sexuality. If I said my life was awful, that would be putting it nicely. I thought the whole world looked down at me just because I was gay. All I can say is that before I found LGBT Jigsaw, I had given up: and thatís the honest truth.

"I was just about to sit my GCSEs when I first got in contact with them. I was homeless. I was going to school really early and staying there as late as I could. One morning, I decided there had to be someone out there to help young homeless gay teens. I tried to find someone online. I typed ‘homeless gay teens London’ into Google and found LGBT Jigsaw. I checked out their site, and found there was loads of support available.

"It was difficult at first, but I’ve managed it with the support of my worker. Social services had been telling me that it was safe for me to go home, even though my Dad was saying that I should be burned for being gay. My worker made sure social services took me seriously: now, I’m a looked-after child. I lived with gay carers who are really supporting me. I have a mentor. I’ve just started college.

"LBT Jigsaw gave me faith and hope when I had none: to me, that’s the best gift anyone could give me, because now I know who I am, and where I’m going. I’d like to thank the funder of LGBT Jigsaw, London Councils, because you’ve given young people a chance to have a future."

LGBT Jigsaw is comprised of four organisations: Stonewall Housing, The Albert Kennedy Trust, Galop and PACE. So young LGBT people can get the advice and support they need.

Posted on 21 February 2012 by Bob Green

Category case studies

More affordable, more understanding

In its response to the Mayor of Londonís revised housing strategy, Stonewall Housing has called on the Mayor of London to use his new housing powers to deliver more housing that people can afford, and to encourage local authorities to acquire a better understanding of LGBT housing need.

"Over 80% of those who ask us for advice and support are out of work,” Bob Green, Chief Executive of Stonewall Housing said. “In the past year, there has been a 68% increase in the number of people calling us about debt issues, people who cannot afford their accommodation. Safe and affordable housing is critical for those fleeing domestic abuse and harassment. It’s becoming even harder for LGBT people to find.

Stonewall Housing believes that the Mayor should encourage local authorities to develop more social housing at truly affordable rent levels, so that London will continue to be a city where diverse communities, in various tenures, can live side by side.

Simultaneously, Stonewall Housing believes that the Mayor’s Housing and Equalities Standing Group should be given more of a voice, so that London councils improve their understanding of the housing needs of LGBT people.

Posted on 12 December 2011 by Bob Green

No benefit?

The Governmentís proposed changes welfare benefits and social housing may mean that LGBT people may not be able to afford safe and secure accommodation.

The proposed changes to housing benefit and local housing allowance, combined with increases in the costs of social housing and time limits on the receipt of certain welfare benefits, may result in LGBT people who are experiencing abuse or harassment not being able to move. As a result, some will have to remain in potentially dangerous situations, while some may only have the option of moving far away from their existing support networks.

"We are worried that LGBT people may not be able to afford safety,” Bob Green, Chief Executive of Stonewall Housing said. "This is deeply worrying and the government needs to ensure that all these proposals have been reviewed according to equality impact assessments. Otherwise, they may impact negatively on an already vulnerable group of people."

Stonewall Housing believes that there should be more affordable and secure housing available to LGBT people, otherwise there will be an increase in homelessness and the risk of domestic abuse or homophobic or transphobic harassment.

Posted on 8 November 2011 by Bob Green

Under threat

In 2011, our supported accommodation for homeless young LGBT people celebrated its 25th anniversary, and our advice service turned 21. Demand for both services continues to grow, and we anticipate that it will continue to rise because of the current economic situation. Yet cuts at a local government level, as well as proposed changes to the London Councils grants scheme mean that all our services are under threat.

“The Government is promoting its Big Society agenda, encouraging individuals and charities to improve their communities,” Bob Green, Chief Executive of Stonewall Housing said. “Charities that are currently trying to meet those communities’ needs, however, are under threat of closure because of the public spending cuts announced in the comprehensive spending review. The Government needs to invest in the voluntary sector, especially as more people are likely to become homeless.”

Join the campaign being run by a number of LGBT charities to protect our funding:

Posted on 27 October 2011 by Bob Green

A missed opportunity

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, is writing his London Plan, which sets out what he thinks Londonís economy, environment, transport, housing and social framework should look like over the next 25 years. The Plan will be scrutinised by an independent panel during the summer and the autumn, and will eventually guide the Mayorís other policies, as well as the local plans of all London councils.

“Unfortunately, the Mayor appears to have forgotten about the specific housing needs of LGBT people who make up a signifiant proportion of London’s residents, workers and visitors,” Bob Green, Chief Executive of Stonewall Housing, said. “We believe the London Plan is an opportunity to publicly celebrate that LGBT people live in London, and to explain how the plan will improve their sense of safety in the city. It should also address how it will meet the housing needs of younger and older LGBT people, as well as those seeking asylum and fleeing from domestic abuse and harassment.”

Stonewall Housing will be making a presentation to the independent panel, in which it will outline how it believes the Plan should provide more direction and targets for local councils, especially around equalities. Read our full response to the London plan.

Posted on 13 June 2011 by Bob Green

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