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“My mum said to me: ‘If you are gay, or you ever become gay, you might as well move out of my household. The only way you can come out is under the grave.’”
When Jovanie, now in his mid-20s, came out as a teenager, he found himself without a place to call home – but only after facing violence at the hands of his own family.
“I got beaten with an iron, I got punched-up,” he said in interviews with the LGBT+ homeless charity, the Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT). “I literally got kicked out. There was blood coming out of my head. I felt like that was the end of my life.”
Jovanie’s story, however, is far from unique.
AKT estimate that LGBT+ people make up almost a quarter (24%) of the UK’s youth homeless population, and that more than 10,000 young LGBT+ people aged 16 to 25 were made homeless in 2017 alone.
Of this group, 69% end up sofa-surfing or sleeping on the streets because their parents have rejected them over their sexuality or gender identity, the charity claims. Shockingly, almost two-thirds (62%) have experienced violence and aggression at the hands of their own family.
The survey was carried out over 473 housing providers across 30 cities within England, Wales and Scotland and homeless youths between the ages of 16 and 26 were interviewed.
“Homophobia is absolutely at the root of the vast majority of cases we come across,” explained Grahame Robertson, who works for AKT, which offers support and emergency accommodation for LGBT+ homeless people.
Calling the high proportion of LGBT+ homeless youths an “unacceptable over-representation”, he added: “Faith can also be a big driver, and that’s also tied very intrinsically to homophobia.”
The charity claims that once homeless, LGBT+ young people are far less likely than their heterosexual counterparts to seek support. They’re also at greater risk of experiencing violence and discrimination, developing substance abuse problems and being exposed to sexual exploitation, according to the AKT study.
“When you’re a young black person, who happens to be homosexual, in Bradford, you’re not safe,” said Lexi, who fled to Manchester to escape the prejudice and was homeless for two months, even selling sex to make money.
“When you get home from school, you know the first thing you’re going to get is punched in the face, you’re going to get strangled against the wall, you’re going to get pushed down the stairs,” Lexi told the AKT.
The charity’s CEO Tim Sigsworth called youth homelessness “the most pressing human rights issue facing the LGBT+ community today in the UK”.
“No young person should have to choose between a safe home and being who they are,” he added.
The topic will form the basis of discussions at National Student Pride this weekend, an annual event for LGBT+ students across the UK.
The event’s chair Hatti Smart said: “The figures from the Albert Kennedy Trust are truly devastating – and people just don’t know how much of a crisis we’re in. We know that last year at least 10,000 LGBT+ people were kicked out for their identity.
“Raising money to help homelessness charities is not enough,” she continued. “Only at a national level, with LGBT+ youth considered and included in legislative changes, backed by adequate funding, can we truly tackle this crisis.”
By Jasmin Gray
10 February 2018