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: email@example.com
This is number 1 in a series of 30: Stonewall Housing at 30.