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 25 June 2013 by: Bob Green