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Why Will So Many LGBT Youths Be Sleeping Rough This Christmas?

If you in need of help in Northern Ireland, then call the NIGRA on 07719576524 or try the LGBT Switchboard on 0808 8000 390 

DON’T STAY ALONE – THERE IS SOMEONE WHO CAN HELP!

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We live in a country where same sex couples can legally marry and gay pride festivals wind through streets, so why are there so many youths sleeping rough on the streets after being rejected by the families for their sexual orientation?

The Albert Kennedy Trust (ABK) provided 8,000 nights off the streets for young LGBT people with nowhere else to turn in 2014, a 160% increase on last year.

One teenager couldn’t return his family because of abuse. His parents, Jehovah’s Witnesses, didn’t accept his sexuality and social services initially refused to help.

“We had to employ solicitors to approach the High Court to request that he was made Ward of Court,” says Tim Sigsworth, chief executive of AKT.

But the teenager is just one example of the 1,500-plus youths who have called the AKT in need of help. More than half resulted in direct long-term case work and support.

“Two weeks into my job as CEO I met a young person at AKT who had spent one night on the streets after being rejected by his parents; during that one night he had been forced to have unprotected sex to secure a bed for the night,” Tim recalls.

“Shortly after this, his first sexual experience, he was diagnosed as HIV positive.”

The charity is named after a young man, Albert Kennedy who, whilst supported by his family, experienced homophobic abuse from strangers, which led him to take his own life in 1989.

Founded in the same year by Cath Hall, who was inspired to help young Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) people through her role as a foster carer, it provides accommodation, advocacy, mentoring and support for 16 to 25 year olds who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness.

The charity, which works in three cities across the UK, hears many stories from young people who have experienced homophobia, biphobia or transphobia, or ignorance of their needs from mainstream service providers.

“We also advocate for young people who have mental, physical health problems, self-harm and have substance misuse problems to obtain housing through the local authority,” Tim continues. “Sadly this is often a very long-winded process as these young people are likely to be turned away. Many young people come to us already living on the streets as their families have turned them away for coming out.”

One 19-year-old woman came to AKT after her devout Evangelical Christian parents kicked her out of her home when she came out to them as a lesbian. They also forced her to leave her child behind with them – a child conceived to cover up her sexuality. She spent the next few months sleeping in stairwells and selling her body to buy food.

albert kennedy trust

AKT has helped 1,500 youths this year alone
AKT provided her with a room at Purple Door, a safe house, to help her rebuild her life. She is now living independently, has a job and has started a new relationship. She is also in the process of getting back her child from her parents.

According to Tim, many people underestimate the adverse impacts of homophobia have on young people – despite the recent legislative change.

“The rights of LGBT people have been greatly improved, but this has not necessarily resulted in social change. Our own work and the research of other [charities] shows that young people are coming out earlier, but more than 50% fear telling their parents. In some cases, this is founded.”

AKT has seen a “significant” increase in young people coming to the charity for help. Between July and September, the organisation saw a “shocking” 100% increase in footfall to AKT compared to the same period last year.

The charity’s own data on homelessness shows LGBT youth are three to six times more likely to attempt or complete suicide or self-harm. Previous research showsmore than half of gay youths have suffered mental health issues, with 40% considering suicide.

albert kennedy trust

AKT at London Pride
Not only are LGBT youths more susceptible to mental health issues, the impact of homelessness is far greater in terms of health and wellbeing than their peers.

“We found this included sexual exploitation, mental health issues, and physical and substance abuse,” Tim adds.

“A young man, aged 22, came to AKT after being ostracised from his community and left homeless by his family having come out as gay.

“As a result of the trauma of the situation he then lost his job and was forced to spend his time looking for places to stay – hanging around bars and clubs. One evening he went home with someone who proceeded to drug and then abuse him, along with a group of other men.

“At this point he arrived at AKT suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As a result of the sexual abuse he suffered he had contracted HIV but had barely engaged with HIV services, as he was so traumatised. 

AKT battled the local authority, who refused to honour their duty of care to him.

“In the meantime we linked him into appropriate HIV and mental health services and provided him with a mentor to help him rebuild his self-esteem. The local authority has just housed him in his own place with our support.”

albert kennedy trust

A volunteer with one of the youths AKT helps
AKT also aims to help youths rejected by their families to improve their independence skills.

“We have placements with carers for young people. They have a pathway plan that helps them achieve and improve these skills. We also have short-term accommodation available available where we house young people in an emergency, for example if they are fleeing violence or are left homeless by their families after they have found out about their sexuality or gender identity.

“Sadly we see many young people going to bars and clubs and finding people to sleep with so they have a bed for the night, which often leads to problems including sexual and drug abuse.”

AKT also helps youths plan a future. Mentors meet them on a weekly or fortnightly basis to help with practicalities such as college applications.

“We have seen a real need for this kind of support as many young people have sofa-surfed with friends and need help planning for the future. We also offer life skills training to help young people live independently.”

As for a long-term solution to the problem, Tim “absolutely” believes LGBT relationships should be taught in school.

“Many of the young LGBT people who AKT work with have experienced sexual exploitation and physical abuse in relationships and I believe this is in part due to LGBT young people not receiving education and support around same-sex relationships at school, whether on a sexual or emotional level.”

If you need help, AKT’s London, Manchester and Newcastle offices are staffed 10am – 4:30pm Mon-Fri.

London: 020 7831 6562
Manchester: 0161 228 3308
Newcastle-upon-Tyne: 0191 281 0099

If you need help at other times, call:

Shelter Housing Advice Line: 0808 800 4444 (8am-midnight every day)
LGF Helpline: 0845 330 30 30 (10am-10pm every day)
London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard: 0300 330 0630 (calls at local rate)
Samaritans: 08457 90 90 90 (24hrs)

 

 

Merry Christmas

[layerslider id=”3″]NIGRA wishes everyone a peaceful and happy Christmas –

 

Christmas Christmas Christmas-2

The Gathering – Gay Spiritual Group

 

Carols_2014The GatheringGay Men’s Spiritual Group, extend a warm invite to you and your friends and family to the annual “Community Christmas Carols by Candlelight” Service, on Thursday 11th December 2014, in All Soul’s Church, Elmwood Avenue, Belfast, BT9 at 7:30pm.
 
We are delighted that Pádraig Ó Tuama has agreed to be our speaker this year.  Pádraig is a Community Leader at Corrymela, a poet and theologian amongst other things and we are looking forward to his sharing with us.
 
The collection this year will be for the DEC Ebola appeal.
 
This is a great way to start the festive season and we warmly welcome all who genuinely want to share with us at this time.  Refreshment will be served afterwards.

 

Mayors Join in Queer Festive Fun, Celebrating Christmas in Queerspace

Queerspace celebrated Christmas in style with support from Andrew Muir, the Mayor of North Down, Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and the Rev. Chris Hudson MBE from All Souls Church.  The festivities commenced with a packed bus tour, generously supported by the Department of Social Development.  A sea of red Santa hats brightened up the streets of Belfast and back to a Christmas Party with refreshing mull wine and fine snacks prepared by a small army of volunteers.

 

The Lord Mayor of Belfast said “I am delighted be here at the LGB&T Centre in Waring Street celebrating DSCF8359Christmas with our friends from the LGB&T Community.  It has been my experience over the last 6 months as Lord Mayor that the gay community makes an enormous contribution to Belfast, is a great contributor to the City of Belfast and by being here I am giving thanks for that and renewing my support for the concept of including all our people in celebrating diversity in the City”.

 

The Mayor of North Down said that there has been massive change in Northern Ireland society since he came out in 1996.  “The city has also evolved and became a lot more prosperous and peaceful and we have much further to go.  We have got to create a city and a Northern Ireland of equals where people are treated equally and celebrated as valued citizens and to do that we need leadership from people to say that diversity is good and should be embraced”.  Mayor Muir continued to say “it is great to be here with leaders of change from within the lesbian and gay community and also people from civic society and to transform our society we need more leadership and I am glad to be with people who have been very inspirational”.

 

Rev. Hudson gave credit by saying “You people yourselves have been a real catalyst for change here in the bt52wonderful city of Belfast and in many ways the peoples voice is ignored and it’s important that it is heard and how it is heard is when people like Máirtín and Andrew use their office for good authority”.  Rev Hudson continued to say “They look at people who appear to be on the margins who are excluded and say that’s not going to happen on my watch and we are really fortunate both in North Down and here in Belfast to have two people of excellent authority who have actually stood up showing new light to how this city and how this province can change and you people are part of that change”.

 

Queerspace is a vibrant volunteer led community group, based on collective planning and action which has served the Belfast LGB&T community since 1998.  It’s run through open community meetings which are held on the 1st and 3rd Saturday afternoons of every month followed by a social space where members can relax, enjoy some free refreshments and meet with friends, old and new.  Queerspace promotes and organises a wide range of social and cultural activities for the benefit of the LGB&T community and friends throughout the year.

 

QueerspaceFor more information email info@queerspace.org.uk or visit the web site at www.queerspace.org.uk or find it on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

NIGRA Wishes Everyone a Merry Gay Christmas

 

The members and followers of NIGRA wish everyone a wonderful, and safe Christmas.  Be safe, and remember to look after others when you can.