Why LGBTQ Victorians are twice as likely to face homelessness


Discrimination, violence & family rejection are driving #LGBTQ homelessness: report Click To Tweet

Discrimination, violence, family rejection and heightened stress are why LGBTQ Victorians are at least twice as likely to find themselves without a home, a report has found. 

In response to the alarming evidence provided by the study, The Council to Homeless Persons is calling for specialist accommodation options for young LGBTIQ people.   

The recently released LGBTQ Homelessness Research Project, published by the Gay and Lesbian Foundation of Australia, explored why LGBTQ Australians are significantly overrepresented in homelessness data, but also how they could be better supported. It’s findings and recommendations have significant implications for housing and homelessness services’ approaches to LBGTIQ clients. 

The study’s key findings include:

  • LBG people are at least twice as likely as heterosexuals to experience homelessness

  • People who identify as bisexual are much more likely to have at least five repeated experiences of homelessness

  • LGBTQ people are more likely to experience homelessness at a younger age and this is driven by family rejection

  • LGBTQ people experience misgendering, harassment, violence, & discrimination in shared accommodation facilities, rooming houses and services, and discrimination in private rental

  • Fears of, or actual negative experiences suffered in homelessness services are creating barriers to help-seeking

The study’s Lead researcher Dr Ruth McNair, has said, “We found that LGBTQ people often have complex and interacting pathways to homelessness. These are driven by unique vulnerabilities around experiences of family rejection, discrimination, and marginalisation. These issues need specific policy and service responses.”

The researchers interviewed 19 workers from four homelessness service providers, 17 LGBTQ people who have experienced homelessness; and analysed data from the Journeys Home Survey, and the General Social Survey.

They discovered that most LGBTQ participants had experienced discrimination because of their sexuality or gender diversity (Figure 1) and, for many, this directly impacted on their ability to find safe accommodation, particularly in the case of transgender Victorians.

They also found that experiences of violence and family conflict leads to LGBTQ people being younger when first homeless, heightening their vulnerability.

Figure 1. Rates of discrimination or unfair treatment: GALFA, 2017

CHP chief executive Jenny Smith has said, “we know some young LGBTIQ people end up being forced out of the family home due to rejection.  Leaving home young is hard enough, but in our current housing market, and with increasingly ineffective social safety nets, it is downright dangerous,” 

Staff and clients interviewed for the study identified a lack of safety for LBGTQ clients as being a significant problem, citing experiences of negative attitudes from other clients or staff. Rooming houses were identified as being particularly unsafe. 

Participants who managed to secure temporary homeless accommodation in refuges or crisis services reported rejection by or discrimination, from other residents. Discrimination in the private rental and social housing was also reported.  One participant stated:

“For 3 years since I moved into this apartment [public housing], I have been harassed, been given death threats, I was told there was a contract put on my life to kill me. There was two petitions gone around this building so far to get rid of me, because – 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… so I was outed before I even began visibly changing. So my idea of keeping under cover and being myself and being private was blown out of the water, because there was no way I could be private after that.… and I still have to live in this building after being assaulted and spending two weeks in hospital.” 

The report made a wide range of recommendations for relating to prevention, policy, training and service provision and research,  including:.

Services

  • All homelessness and housing services should be LGBTIQ inclusive.
  •  LGBTIQ specialist services should be embedded within selected mainstream services.
  • A LGBTIQ safe housing network should be developed
  • The family violence sector should recognise the impact of family violence and childhood trauma/abuse towards LGBTQ young people as homelessness risk factor.

Training

  • LGBTIQ inclusive practice guidelines should be developed and disseminated to the homelessness and housing sectors.
  • Ongoing LGBTIQ training should be mandatory for staff at all homelessness and housing services.

Primary prevention

  • Education for families of origin, and more queer-inclusive definitions of family (including chosen family), is needed to understand LGBTIQ identities and increase support for queer and trans young people.
  • Schools should be supportive of LGBTIQ students and aware of their heightened risk of family rejection and homelessness.

Policy

  • Australian homelessness and housing policies should include LGBTIQ people as vulnerable sub-groups that require specific attention
  • Data collection that includes sex, sexual orientation and gender identity should be mandatory and linked with service funding agreements.

Research

  • Further research should be undertaken to investigate the homelessness risks and service needs, and important intersections, of subgroups of LGBTIQ people, particularly people with intersex
    variations; multi-faith, multi-cultural, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; and people living with a disability (the study was open to intersex participants but unfortunately, none could be recruited).

Read the full GALFA LBGTQ Report and recommendations.