Tackling the LGBTQ+ youth homelessness crisis

Jotepreet Bhandal, 18 February 2022

As February marks LGBT+ History Month, akt is asking the all-important question - How can we tackle the crisis of LGBTQ+ youth homelessness?

No young person should have to choose between a safe home and being who they are. Research shows 77% of the young people that akt support face homelessness after being forced out of their family home after coming out or being outed.

akt is a charity supporting LGBTQ+ young people aged 16-25 in the UK who are facing or experiencing homelessness or living in a hostile environment. They formed in Manchester in 1989, during the era of Section 28 where laws were passed across Britain that prohibited the "promotion of homosexuality" by local authorities.

This coincided with increasing numbers of LGBTQ+ young people facing rejection and ejection from their family home and hostility in school and wider society.

Our work

Since 1989, in response to the growing need, we have significantly expanded our services and now provide support to LGBTQ+ young people across the country through our digital service. We have support centres in Manchester, Newcastle, Bristol and London.

As a result of over three decades of work, 50,000 young people have been supported by akt into safe homes, employment, education, and training in a welcoming and open environment that celebrates LGBTQ+ identities. We are also proud to have opened the UK’s first LGBTQ+ emergency accommodation, Purple Door, in London.  

33 years on, LGBTQ+ youth homelessness is still a pressing issue in the UK as LGBTQ+ young people remain disproportionately represented in the young homeless population. As many as 24% of young homeless people are LGBTQ+ yet this crisis doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

The majority of the young people akt support face homelessness because of family rejection, abuse or being asked to leave home. It’s worth remembering that straight and cisgender (i.e. not trans) young people do not face homelessness and the same abuse and rejection due to their gender or sexual orientation.

Supporting vulnerable young people

A large part of akt’s work is focused around advocating for young people to ensure they get the right support. Being made homeless makes people even more vulnerable to other risks and to mental health problems. Many of the services that should be there to help young people in these situations are under extreme pressure.

Worryingly, in our last piece of research when surveyed:

  • Less than half (44%) of LGBTQ+ young people knew of any housing support available to them.
  • Less than one quarter (24%) knew of any support available to them in general.
  • Over one third (35%) reached out to their local authority for support.
  • Over half (59%) faced some form of discrimination or harassment, including one fifth who experienced ‘dead-naming’ i.e. referring to a trans person with the name they were assigned at birth.

Tackling LGBTQ+ youth homelessness

The statistics highlight the importance of raising more awareness of the LGBTQ+ youth homelessness crisis and the urgent need to create safe spaces and housing. To effectively tackle LGBTQ+ youth homelessness, we must improve pathways to safe, affordable, and inclusive housing. We need to work with the government to encourage them to prioritise vulnerable LGBTQ+ people in its guidance and policy-making. Social landlords including housing associations and local authorities also have a role to play.

This includes working with akt to improve the social housing sector’s understanding of how to remove barriers for LGBTQ+ people who need their services. As well as developing inclusive housing and homelessness services that support and respond to the needs of LGBTQ+ people, including those from marginalised groups, such as ethnic minorities, trans and disabled LGBTQ+ people.

It’s important social housing continues to push policies to tackle homelessness by building more homes, especially more homes for social rent, to take the pressure off the private rented sector and provide secure and safe housing for vulnerable people.

Change will not happen overnight, but we can and must improve the support available to LGBTQ+ young people at risk of or experiencing homelessness by working together to help everyone.