OPINION: We must prevent trans people from becoming homeless

by Clare Robertson | Cardboard Citizens
Friday, 2 June 2023 05:00 GMT

Homeless people sit beside a boarded up and closed West-End theatre, amidst the spread of COVID-19 in London, Britain, October 16, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

While homelessness affects people across wider society, trans people are more likely to be affected, writes Clare Robertson

Clare Robertson is executive producer of Cardboard Citizens, a theatre company and social justice charity

The old cliché that “anyone is a step away from homelessness” is less true than ever in a country in which inequity increases each week.

Homelessness does discriminate, and some communities are at starkly greater risk: rates among the UK LGBTQ+ community are alarmingly high, particularly among trans people.

With sofa surfing, unfit housing, housing instability and street sleeping all encompassed under the umbrella of ‘UK homelessness’, a range of charities have undertaken research in recent years to highlight the specific issues leading to homelessness within the LGBTQ+ community.

Research by the Albert Kennedy Trust shows that one in four young LGBTQ+ people have experienced homelessness, and the Centre for Homelessness Impact has found that about 65% of LGBTQ+ young people surveyed felt that their sexuality or gender identity was a contributing factor to their homelessness.

Coming out, facing a lack of acceptance, or experiencing opposition or violence at home can lead to young people leaving home before they are ready - and without a safety net.

Among trans and non-binary people, the issues are more intense and longer lasting.

LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall’s “Trans Report” shows that one in four trans people across a broad age spectrum have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.

The charity also states that trans people are at particularly high risk of experiencing homelessness and domestic abuse, and often face a lack of support from their families.

One in seven trans people aren’t open about their gender identity to anyone in their family; this number increases to one in four non-binary people. More than a quarter of trans people surveyed who were in a relationship had faced domestic abuse from a partner in the last year.

The Centre for Homelessness Impact reports that young trans people are often denied access to single-sex spaces for emergency accommodation, leaving them with either riskier multi-sex spaces or with no access to emergency support services.

Fear of police and other authorities is common, meaning that many LGBTQ+ young people will not report crimes or approach the local authority for help when they are homeless or about to be.

Much is needed to reverse the trend of LGBTQ+ housing insecurity. Many trans people’s experiences of homelessness are rooted in discrimination – or fear of being discriminated against – and exacerbated by a lack of appropriate provision, wider awareness and funding.

In a context where crisis support is chronically underfunded across the UK, trans-inclusive support can be even harder to find. Without shelters and temporary housing for trans people experiencing these challenges, the issue will continue to deepen.

Trans-led charities - such as advocacy service Gendered Intelligence remain all too rare, with the Outside Project LGBTIQ+ shelter standing as the only dedicated service of its kind nationally, leaving much of the community without specialist support.

While LGBTQ+ people continue to fall through the gaps in support services, homelessness and housing insecurity remains a painful reality for many trans people across the UK.

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