Each Pride, we take stock of how far we’ve come and how far we need to go. Pride Month for me is all about community, belonging and the right for LGBTQ+ people to be safe living our lives as our true authentic selves.
As Stonewall Housing’s Training Lead, and as someone who is also a queer woman, I spend a lot of time thinking about how there is nowhere these themes matter as much as at home. How safe do we feel in the place we sleep each night, in the community we share with our neighbours each day?
LGBTQ+ people’s experience of safe housing is shaped by how supported and affirmed we feel in our sexual orientation or gender identity.
In 2017, HouseProud (a network of LGBTQ+ people working in social housing) commissioned the University of Surrey to undertake research on the experiences of LGBTQ+ social housing residents and published the report “No Place Like Home?” in February 2018. The Pledge Scheme was developed in response to the report’s main findings.
To me, the figures feel stark. One third of respondents did not feel their neighbourhood was a safe place to live as an LGBTQ+ person. This increased to almost two thirds amongst trans respondents.
Hate crime and harassment were a concern for many people and we’ve only seen the issue get worse, with official figures of hate crime reported to the police pointing to a 41% increase in hate crime linked to sexual orientation. There’s also been a 56% increase in transphobic hate crime between 2020/21 and 2021/2022. Worryingly, a third of residents felt that their housing providers didn’t deal effectively with issues like harassment.
The research uncovered a high degree of hypervigilance amongst LGBTQ+ residents, with over a fifth of respondents feeling uncomfortable with repairs people entering their home, and many choosing to avoid this experience entirely. The research found that a significant number of residents adapted their home in some way before letting someone in. This features a fifth of gay men, as well as others, self-censoring to conceal their sexuality or gender identity.
“So I definitely have hidden flags and stuff, especially the trans Pride flag, because it’s very difficult not being what you’d call assigned the gender you were at birth. You don’t want people knowing that who come round to your house, because it starts the whole conversation and they usually ask a really inappropriate question.”
The research highlights themes of exclusion and isolation. Only 43% of survey respondents felt a sense of belonging in their local area – a figure that fell to 23% for trans people. A quarter of respondents reported feeling lonely and many highlighted that more could be done to promote LGBTQ+ visibility, understanding amongst different communities and for housing providers to actively support LGBTQ+ people.
“Just to know that you are accepted, that they do know, that they’re alright with it and just to feel that you’re not isolated, you’re not on your own. Because I see all the other people here (other residents) with their little cliques and stuff… you know, I think they (housing provider) could do a bit more to make it known that they do offer support.”
The HouseProud Pledge was created to address the issues raised by the findings of the “No Place like Home?” report. It was developed by HouseProud and the University of Surrey in association with residents, staff members and sector leaders from across the country and was launched in May 2019
The Pledge is a scheme that all social housing providers including housing associations can sign up to no matter their size or location. It’s a great opportunity for the social housing sector to demonstrate their commitment to LGBTQ+ resident equality and support.
This year, Stonewall Housing was proud to become the delivery partner of the HouseProud Pledge. We are bringing almost 40 years of experience and expertise in supporting LGBTQ+ people with housing issues to support this sector-wide initiative.
As Stonewall Housing’s Training Lead, I support the day-to-day running of the HouseProud Pledge, supporting social housing providers, including housing associations, to sign up. This includes working with signatories to review and assess their progress.
The process of signing up is quick and streamlined however, each social housing provider must have a senior signatory, for example, a Chief Executive or an executive team member to demonstrate strategic leadership. As we all know, support from senior staff is critical when creating change within an organisation.
Once signed up, the HouseProud Pledge is a research-informed, concrete framework that many social housing providers have told me gives them the extra impetus to push towards better LGBTQ+ inclusion.
There are two levels of the Pledge this includes Pledge Pioneer and Pledge Plus. To reach Pledge Pioneer housing providers must demonstrate the progress they are making around three core requirements each year after signing up.
I’m proud to be supporting the HouseProud Pledge to work towards a social housing sector that better supports and affirms LGBTQ+ residents.
At Stonewall Housing, we always say that we won’t stop until every LGBTQ+ person has somewhere safe place to call home. It’s been so exciting to welcome new social housing providers to the HouseProud Pledge scheme and experience the pride and solidarity at work in their commitment to ensuring LGBTQ+ social housing residents feel a sense of safety, belonging, community and support.
We are always happy to welcome new social housing providers to sign up to the HouseProud Pledge. If you are a housing association, local authority or ALMO don’t hesitate to get in touch.