Fear of homophobia and transphobia keeping homeless LGBTQI+ youth away from hostels

Fear of homophobia and transphobia keeping homeless LGBTQI+ youth away from hostels

According to the report, there was a high degree of fear and anxiety among young people when engaging with homeless services.

Parental rejection of young people’s sexual orientation and gender identity can be a trigger in the decision to leave home and can subsequently lead to homelessness, according to a new report. 

Research conducted by Focus Ireland and BeLonG To Youth Services also found connections between homelessness and mental health problems, and complex experiences of stigma and shame.

A total of 22 people aged between 18 and 30 were interviewed for the qualitative study, the first of its kind in Ireland. 

It was carried out by Professor Michelle Norris and Dr Aideen Quilty of University College Dublin on behalf of Focus Ireland in partnership with the national LGBTQI+ youth organisation BelonG To Youth Services.

According to the report, there was a high degree of fear and anxiety among young people when engaging with homeless services. 

The majority of young people interviewed were unwilling to enter a space, such as a hostel, where they feared they would encounter a lack of understanding or blatant homophobic or transphobic attitudes among both other service users and staff. 

However, the research also showed an overwhelmingly positive impact for those who did access frontline services, such as key workers, although some young people interviewed also reported instances of less positive interactions with both staff and clients of homeless services.

According to the report's main findings: 

  • Young people who are LGBTQI+ not only experience all the interpersonal, familial and intra-personal problems of the young population-at-large but also have a range of other challenges associated with their sexuality and gender identity, particularly relating to coming out and/or transitioning;
  • Despite some progress, homophobia and transphobia persist in Irish society;
  • Many young LGBTQI+ people without a home, avoid homeless services and live in a precarious world of ‘sofa surfing’ with friends and acquaintances;
  • Many of the participants were still in precarious accommodation or formal homelessness but have shown exceptional levels of resilience.

The supportive role of parents and the impact of its absence also features.

Moninne Griffith, CEO of BeLonG To Youth Services, said: “The need for information on homelessness among LGBTQI+ young people is particularly urgent in light of the rise in youth homeless in Ireland in recent years. Coming out can still lead to LGBTQI+ youth being made homeless. 

"In our frontline services, we witness a significant number of LGBTQI+ youth living without a permanent home and surviving by sleeping on friends’ sofas, squatting or staying in other insecure or unsafe places. 

"This group are even more difficult to identify and consequently are often referred to as the ‘forgotten homeless’ or ‘hidden homeless."

The report makes a number of recommendations, including that the issue of LGBTQI+ homelessness should be included in the new Youth Homelessness Strategy, which the Government promised in their Programme for Government. 

It also recommends more mediation services and training on gender issues, and measures to make homeless services more accessible and supportive for young LGBTQI+ homeless people.

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