As Australia continues to debate whether same-sex attracted people should be allowed to marry, World Homelessness Day can serve as reminder that what may be considered a more basic right – to secure and safe accommodation – is denied to many LGBTIQ+ people.
A recent study by GALFA (the Gay and Lesbian Foundation of Australia) found that LGBTIQ+ people were twice as likely as heterosexual people to have experienced homelessness.
The violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTIQ+ people means that they often don’t access other support services that might lead to permanent accommodation.
The report found that emergency accommodation such as shelters and rooming houses were seen as particularly dangerous places by young LGBTIQ+ people.
One interview subject told the researchers that other public housing tenants petitioned to have them evicted.
The report quotes the subject as saying: “… in the petition it said I was a woman trying to be a man, and I was not normal, that I did not belong living with normal people… and I still have to live in this building after being assaulted and spending two weeks in hospital.”
Negative experiences with service providers were also an issue reported to the researchers.
This included bias and discrimination such as ‘misgendering’, so people were offered services designed for a gender they did not identify with.
This was found to be a particular problem with faith-based organisations, where staff were reluctant to discuss a person’s sexuality.
Lord Mayor of Melbourne Robert Doyle helped launch the GALFA report in September.
He said the report highlighted that family conflict often led to LGBTIQ+ youth leaving home at a comparably early age.
The report was based on research conducted by the University of Melbourne and Swinburne University of Technology.
As well as examining previous studies, the researchers conducted interviews with 19 managers and staff of homelessness services and 17 LGBTIQ+ people who had experienced homelessness.
While family conflict regarding their sexuality was cited as a reason many young people left home, social homophobia and discrimination was often the reason young people found themselves homeless.
The report suggested a number of recommendations for the homelessness sector to consider. These include training for staff in the use of inclusive language, an understanding of concerns specific to LGBTI people and incorporating specialist services within the mainstream system.
The first World Homeless Day was held on 10 October 2010 (10/10/10).
Each year since then, the day has been observed throughout the world to highlight homelessness in local communities.
It is estimated that more than 100,000 Australians are homeless.
Figures for Victoria and Tasmania indicate one in 300 people is considered homeless on any given night.
In both states lack of affordable housing, as well as domestic violence and relationship issues, are cited as the main cause of homelessness.