akt is a charity supporting LGBTQ+ young people facing homelessness, experiencing familial rejection and living in a hostile environment. The charity works across London, Manchester, Newcastle and Bristol to provide safe refuge and forge better futures for the young people accessing our services.
24% of the U. K’s homeless population identify as LGBTQ+. 68% of the young people accessing our services are Black and PoC (rising to 80% in London with 38% being Black). We know that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Black and brown communities. However, QTIBPOC young people, who are a minority within a minority, have felt the brunt of this. Many have found themselves displaced, ostracised and financially constrained as a result of lockdown, the burgeoning rent debt crisis and systemic intersectional discrimination.
Our research shows that one in ten parents would feel uncomfortable if their child came out as LGBT (2019 YouGov). More than one in ten would not want their child to bring home a same-sex partner. 77% of the young people accessing our services cite ‘coming out’ to their parents as the key factor contributing to their homelessness. Lockdown brought some of these homophobic sentiments to the fore with queer young people stuck in high-risk environments. This April we saw a sharp rise in referrals amounting to a 107% footfall increase in London compared with April last year, and approximately 37% increase across all our akt branches. With many referrals coming from 16-17 year olds feeling unsafe at home.
For QTIBPOC young people, these vulnerabilities are compounded by anti-blackness within the systems put in place to protect us. Black people are eight times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched by police, with the police five times more likely to use force against them. This prejudice exercised by law enforcement towards Black people has a detrimental effect on queer young Black people who are rough sleeping. The police are constantly moving them along which prevents StreetLink (who require rough sleepers to be in a fixed location) from helping them.
Racism and lack of understanding around queer PoC identity is prevalent amid the housing sector. Faz, who is a queer brown Muslim, recalls local authorities asking him triggering questions when he approached them when he was homeless. “I was blamed for my situation and there was a complete lack of care around procedures to safeguard my being trans,” explains Faz. “Caseworkers were ignorant of the nuances of coming from a certain community and coming out as trans.”
The gig economy was hit hardest by Covid 19 in regard to job loss and risk of unemployment – many of our young people work within this realm. Additionally, many of the young people accessing our services, were reporting being evicted despite the eviction ban. In these situations, the Local Authorities are often the first port of call. However, housing officer’s lack of empathy towards and knowledge of the specific challenges that come with being Black or PoC and queer, is very concerning.
Racism within the renting sector leads to housing insecurity for queer Black and PoC. A problem only worsened during Covid 19. Lockdown has strained familial relationships for LGBTQ+ young people, many of whom are seeking safer refuge in privately rented rooms. However, racial prejudice still manages to intercept.
Leigh, the London Services Manager at akt, reports moments in which young Black men were discriminated against based on their African surname. They would have to resort to a ‘professional Western’ name when applying for house viewings – just to get a response. Having viewed the property, there were instances in which they were unfairly dismissed by prospective white housemates on account of ‘not being the right fit’. Considering the brevity of these meetings it’s difficult to imagine how such a concrete conclusion could’ve been reached.
So what needs to be done to properly support QTIBPOC young people who’ve been adversely affected by Covid 19?
“Multiagency,” affirms Faz. “During this period there has been a 40% increase in young people accessing akt services compared with the same time period last year.”
Organisations supporting those impacted by Covid 19 need to adopt a multifaceted approach and partner with LGBTQ+ specific charities to ensure all sectors of society, including the more marginalised QTIBPOC are spoken to. Read our impact reports and find out what measures need to be put in place for QTIBPOC in homelessness units. Create resources for ally’s in the shape of friends and families who want to help queer people struggling with their identity to navigate that.
“A lot of young people are struggling with their religious beliefs at home with their parents,” continues Faz. “We have these sitting room conversations in brown communities about coming out ‘Oh he’s gay? Ha ha.’ Before it’s re-instilled in you that gay is not okay. Intra-faith conversations taking place in support groups will help ease this.”
And perhaps most obvious – funding. Queer Black and PoC are socially and economically disproportionately impacted by Covid 19 and that needs addressing. Places like akt, Rainbow Noir and U.K Black Pride are key for this.
“Do we need emergency funding pots? Do we need life coaches? What we need is to get our queer black and brown community back into a healthy mental state post – coronavirus.”