How can we make homes safe and inclusive for LGBT+ residents?

This pride month, we are exploring how housing associations can and should create an environment where LGBT+ residents feel safe where they live.

Tina Wathern is Director of Education and Engagement at Stonewall Housing

Tina Wathern is Director of Education and Engagement at Stonewall Housing

2 July 2019

At Stonewall Housing, we’ve been providing housing advice, advocacy and support for LGBT+ people since 1983. Despite legal advances over the years, the demand for our services is as strong as ever, and the number of people seeking our services increases yearly.

LGBT+ people share common housing issues with others, but also have specific issues:

  • two thirds of people who contact Stonewall Housing for advice state that their sexual orientation or gender identity plays a significant role in their housing issues
  • LGBT+ people make up a significant number of the homeless community.

Do you know who your tenants are and understand their specific needs?

Housing providers undoubtedly want to do the best for their tenants and provide them with a great service. However, to do this right, you need to know who your tenants are.

This involves including questions about gender identity and sexual orientation in your monitoring questions. While many providers do, some still find this a problem and we know that housing association staff often can find this particularly problematic when asking face-to-face questions.

We’ve heard many ways that staff are asking tenants about their sexuality, with examples like: “I’m sorry to have to ask you this but…” or, “I’m sure you’re not but…”

Phrasing questions like this means tenants are probably not answering them and the truth is that’s about staff being uncomfortable rather than the tenant. Research shows that 59% of people have never been asked about their gender identity and sexual orientation by their housing provider. How can you provide the right services and support if you don’t know anything about your residents?

What does it mean to feel safe and included?

The There’s No Place Like Home report found that 60% of trans tenants and more than a third of LGBTQ+ tenants don’t feel safe in social housing settings.

We use the safe word a lot – for example safe housing, finding safe spaces, building safe choices – but what does it mean to be safe where you live?

We asked some of our staff at Stonewall Housing what being safe at home meant to them, and they said it meant: being secure, confident, relaxed, not frightened, part of a community.  

So, how can you make someone feel safe and included?

It’s important that your organisation is ‘out and proud’ about being LGBT+ inclusive to create a greater chance of tenants feeling able to be themselves.

Here are some ways to make a safe and inclusive environment for your tenants:

  • include easily accessible LGBT+ resources on your website
  • ensure you have LGBT+ tenants’ groups
  • clearly demonstrate zero tolerance to harassment
  • invest in good training for staff
  • sign up and commit to quality marks like Stonewall Housing’s Inclusion Standard for Housing Providers.

These are just some of the ways you can demonstrate a commitment to LGBT+ tenants, so you can create places where people feel can feel confident and safe where they live, as everyone deserves to.

If you would like more information about the training Stonewall Housing offers then please get in touch with me on Tina@stonewallhousing.org

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