Why is the LGBTQ+ community so over-represented in the youth homeless population?

In the UK, LGBTQ+ young people are more likely to find themselves homeless than their non-LGBT peers, comprising up to 24% of the youth homeless population. Alexis Gregory’s recent play at the Reading Rep Theatre, ‘Safe’, explored the so-far untold stories of homeless and at risk LGBT youth and our Activities Coordinator, Hatty, was part of a panel Q&A after the performance – which discussed the complex issues the LGBTQ+ community faces with regards to homelessness. We sat down with Hatty to find out more.

How did you get involved in this play?

I worked with the Reading Rep Theatre a few times over the years as they have put on workshops like street dance and drama for our clients. At a mental health networking event I met the director of the play, ‘Safe’, and she mentioned this play about the experience of LGBTQ+ homelessness was coming up. They invited me to speak on the panel and that’s how I got involved.

What was the play like?

It was a verbatim play written by Alexis Gregory about the experience of four people within the LGBTQ+ community, who had all been homeless. The play was based on interviews that had been conducted with the real people, so the actors were representing them. It was a moving and powerful piece on their journey with their sexuality and their journey through homelessness, which is linked in several ways.

What was the idea of the panel?

To open up discussion with the audience about the links between LGBTQ+ and homelessness, with the help from people on the panel who all had experience within the homelessness sectors or LGBTQ+ organisations. There was someone from SupportU in Reading, someone from Stonewall Housing, I was representing Launchpad and we had a cast member there as well.

What kind of discussions were there on that panel?

The director led discussions and we explored questions – for e.g. how does the LGBTQ+ experience of homelessness differ from non-LGBTQ+ people? Is there a need for services to provide tailored support and what might this look like? The audience were also able to ask questions.

What are the main reasons for homelessness in the LGBTQ+ community?

One of the clearest causes of homelessness within the LGBTQ+ community is that people are still being kicked out of their family homes because of their sexuality. This often happens when people are fairly young and they might not know how to find tenancy or maintain it, or how to manage bills. Alongside this, they often might not have a support network to fall back on. This obviously has an impact on mental health and physical health, and in some cases could then lead to losing your job. Like anyone who is homeless, it’s important to remember that there are usually many contributing factors and there’s a complicated story behind everyone’s situation.

In terms of job loss, the Guardian recently published an article where studies had shown that seven out of ten LGBTQ+ people have been sexually harassed at work. Two thirds of these people did not report it and a quarter of them said it was because they were afraid of being “outed” at work. The Trans community are still facing prejudice from employers and landlords as well – 10% of LGBTQ+ people who were looking for a house or flat to rent or buy in the last year were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

What does Reading do to support people in the LGBTQ+ community who are facing homeless?

There is an amazing organisation called SupportU – they offer a wide range of support, including free counselling, support groups and social groups. At Launchpad we offer everyone housing and homelessness information and support – all people need to do is come by our drop-in service and we can help.

Why are plays like ‘Safe’ important to have?

I think it is important to raise awareness within the community of the stark links between LGBTQ+ and homelessness but also give people the opportunity to discuss the issues, like we did at the Q&A. For example, we were asked an interesting question about safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people and whether that is working towards inclusion or not. It was a really good opportunity to explain that you need to have those safe spaces in order to move on. It’s like supported housing – you often can’t move people straight from homelessness into unsupported accommodation . You have to have a support structure which is safe and explicitly protected, and then you can move on as you gain skills and confidence and get the support you need. We absolutely need to talk about all different aspects of homelessness so any opportunity to do that is welcomed as far as we’re concerned at Launchpad!

Launchpad to open Reading’s first work and life skills centre

Launchpad has announced exciting plans to open Reading’s first work and life skills centre to help rebuild the lives of people who are homeless or at risk of losing their home.

The new venture will see us expand our vital services which help clients into work, education and training, giving people the very best chance of living full and independent lives. Currently in negotiations for a unit, we will be acquiring a 5,000 square foot facility a short walk from Reading town centre, which is likely to undergo complete refurbishment to be fit-for-purpose before welcoming clients in spring 2020.

Clients from Launchpad’s floating support, supported housing and drop-in services will use the centre to learn new skills, get back into work, build confidence and socialise in a safe space. Facilities will include a training kitchen for cooking and barista courses; a DIY workshop and laundry area to learn how to maintain a home and practise self-care; an IT suite for job searching and online learning; a counselling service for talking therapies; and a space for creative writing, art, photography and wellbeing activities such as yoga and meditation.

It is estimated the facility will cost £150,000 to open and £250,000 a year to run, and will initially support up to 200 people in Reading who don’t have a stable place to live or are facing homelessness. The charity will be calling on people and organisations across the town to support the desperately needed initiative and help fund the expansion of the service, and will be launching a fundraising campaign as part of its 40th anniversary later this year. We will also be choosing a name for the centre in the coming months.

Ian Caren, Chief Executive of Launchpad, said about the new project: “It takes more than just a home to break the cycle of homelessness – which is why Launchpad’s dedicated work and life skills centre will be a lifeline for people who are in need in Reading. By developing skills like DIY and cooking, getting support to apply for jobs and gain employment, and building self-esteem through counselling and self-care, our clients will give themselves the very best chance of leaving homelessness behind for good.

“We know that the work Launchpad is doing every day – rebuilding people’s lives with therapeutic activities and education, training and employment support – is a model that works. We’re already successfully helping people move out of homelessness into permanent homes, get a job, and lead full and independent lives – but we want to do more! There are many more people needing this type of support.

“Later this year Launchpad will be celebrating its 40th anniversary; everything we’ve achieved to date, every person we’ve helped, every life we’ve benefitted is because of the amazing support we’ve received from the people of Reading. We hope the town will back us once again and get behind this exciting and much-needed new project.”

Launchpad is Reading’s leading homelessness prevention charity, providing vital information and support for individuals, couples and families who don’t have a stable place to live or are at risk of losing their home. We work in three ways – preventing homelessness, providing homes and rebuilding lives – and with your support and generosity, we have helped over 1,400 people in Reading to get back on their feet in 2018, a figure which has doubled in just four years.

Image: Architect’s impression of Launchpad’s work and life skills training centre