The LGBTQ+ Homeless Crisis
In the UK it is estimated that 2.7% of the 16+ population belong under the umbrella of LGBTQ+. Whether identifying as gay, lesbian, bi or trans; this is a minority that faces homelessness on a drastic level. Although 2.7% of the UK population is LGBTQ+, its estimated that 24% of young homeless people belong to this identity. Proportionately this is a drastic difference and explicitly showcases how homelessness is a very common occurrence for those with non-hetero sexual preferences. This blog will explore why the LGBTQ+ community is more likely to face homelessness than the heterosexual population and will also detail the issues they face while living on the street.
People become homeless for many different reasons varying from mortgage repossession and relationship breakdown to mental health issues and addiction. The reason that the LGBTQ community are more likely to face homelessness is due to parental and familiar exclusion. This means that the young person has been kicked out of their family home. Although western society has become more accepting of different sexual identities in the past decade, there are still strong held beliefs (be it religious or cultural) that any non-straight of sexuality is something punishable and something to not be associated with. For example, if a young person comes out to their strictly religious parents, there is a chance that they no longer want to associate with their child and exclude them from the household; leaving them homeless. This is a primary factor on why such a large portion of the homeless population are LGBTQ+ identifying.
Another reason for this is the mental health struggles of those unable to come out as LGBTQ+. It has been widely researched that poor mental health can be a key factor in homelessness. A disproportionately large section of the LGBTQ community suffers from mental health crisis due to the pressure of supressed emotional turmoil. As discussed before, the reaction to a child coming out can range from accepting to extremely aggressive – therefore many decide to keep their sexuality a secret. This can be extremely damaging and cause mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and often substance abuse disorders. Although the 2 reasons discussed above differ, they ultimately stem from the fact that society as a whole is not accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. Often individuals are stuck with the dilemma of bottling up their emotions and suffering from the psychological damage, or expressing who they are and receiving negative judgement from their community.
We have explored the reasons why so many gay, lesbian, bi and trans people become homeless, but another important dimension to this topic is the dangers facing them once they’re on the street. Once homeless, the LGBTQ community are more likely to experience sexual violence than other minority groups. LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience sexual harassment, exploitation, assault and rape, than other homeless youth. The Albert Kennedy Trust (the leading charity working with young LGBTQ homeless people) noted that 17% of this community had to regularly perform sex acts just to have a bed to sleep in while 16% said that they were forced into sexual acts before or during homelessness. The reasons behind this have not been researched enough to define why the LGBTQ community are often targets and victims of sexual abuse – but we do know that this is happening and that it is the harsh reality the homeless LGBTQ face on a daily basis.
If you want to read more about this issue, please visit The Albert Kennedy Trust’s (AKT) website (https://www.akt.org.uk) and especially their ‘2021 LGBTQ+ Youth Homelessness Report’ (https://www.akt.org.uk/report). AKT supports LGBTQ+ young people aged 16-25 in the UK who are facing or experiencing homelessness or living in a hostile environment.