As we enter the month of LGBT+ History month, and as the firms first appointed Diversity Champion, it was only fitting for me to write a piece about LGBTQ community within housing and homelessness. This is such a large area of law, but many of those within the LGBTQ community find themselves facing serious housing issues, whether it be the access to social housing, or discrimination.
Sadly, many local authorities have not yet taken into account the difficulties that the LGBTQ community face with respect to seeking housing assistance, and assisting to alleviate the homophobic or transphobic treatment and harassment that they may face.
A local authority is required to ensure that its policies do not discriminate and that they go further and promote diversity and equality not just based upon race, gender, sex, or disability but also sexual orientation and gender reassignment. Local authorities, as they do with other protected characteristics, should extend their approach and framework to ensure that they comply with their equality duties and the impact that their decision making may have on those in the LGBTQ community.
What some local authorities fail to consider when housing applications are presented before them, is the difficulties some applicants have in being open about their sexuality or gender due to fears of discrimination. LGBTQ young people are more likely to find themselves homeless, and in fact, 24% of the youth homeless population is made up of LGBTQ individuals. Whilst homeless, LGBTQ youth are significantly more likely to experience targeted violence, sexual exploitation, substance misuse, physical and mental health problems in comparison to other homeless persons. The main reason attributed to the large percentage of homeless LGBTQ individuals tends to arise from the familial rejection or abuse within families.
In order to reduce the number of homeless LGBTQ individuals or to ensure that the correct support and services are provided to them, we need to ensure that the appropriate and relevant training is given to Local authorities, and that they stress the importance of gender identity and sexual orientation. The result would be that LGBTQ applicants would be confident and open to sharing personal information which would then in turn assist with the housing applications. This is due to the fact that local authorities may fail to understand the severity of the abuse faced at home, or the nature of the effect the living circumstances of the applicant has on them, as well as the violence which the applicant faces. If an open and transparent conversation is had then a proper assessment can be undertaken.
Although the LGBTQ community is not classified as a vulnerable category when assessing housing applications, it is most important to have a full and frank conversation with respect to the circumstances of each and every individual, as there may be other special reasons that could lead to vulnerability accepted under the legislation. There should be an assurance that any mistreatment or discrimination of the council will be investigated and will not hinder or effect the housing application.
It is already hard enough for LGBTQ individuals to seek assistance from local authorities and other organisations in seeking housing assistance, therefore it is our duty to ensure that clients are comfortable and able to openly discuss their concerns, mistreatment and prospects with us.