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The Shrewsbury Ark Takes Pride



 

June is Pride Month in the UK, and the campaign aim is to celebrate love and diversity. Organisers across the country have a range of events and activities planned, and information about local activities can be found here


The Ark provides practical and emotional support for all people who experience homelessness, and we want to look at the specific challenges faced by our LGBTIA+ clients.

 

Emily Bell, Chair at The Ark, says: “We challenge ourselves all the time, to make sure that we are a safe place for our LGBTIA+ clients. We want to build a culture of understanding and acceptance.  Inclusive language should be the norm. Increasing the experience of our team is vital to make sure that we represent all ethnicities, gender identities and sexual orientation. We must do more in our communication and social media to show LGBTIA+ people that we are here to support them.”

 

Firstly, some facts and stats from the national charity Stonewall Housing (Launching “Kicked Out for Coming Out” – Stonewall Housing’s latest campaign – Stonewall Housing), which supports LGBTQ+ people who are experiencing homelessness or are living in an unsafe environment.

 

·       Nearly a fifth of people who are LGBTIA+ in the UK face homelessness at some stage in their lives.

·       Around 77% of those people cite family rejection as the reason why.

·       “Kicked Out for Coming Out” is their campaign which aims to create a more inclusive and safer environment for LGBTIA+ people.

 

Amongst young people (16-24yr olds) who experience homelessness, around a quarter identify as LGBTIA+.

 

Homeless Link, the national membership charity for organisations working directly with people who become homeless in England, has commented on the akt (a charity supporting =LGBTQ+ young people) LGBTIA+ Youth Homelessness Report to gain deeper understand of their situation.


Here are some snapshots from that commentary:

 

 

·       50% of their responders said that they feared sharing their sexuality with their family, for fear of eviction.

·       Only 13% felt supported by their families whilst experiencing homelessness.

·       17% opted for risky sexual choices to secure a bed for the night.

·       Around 55% knew nothing about the housing options available.

·       75% knew nothing about any kind of support available to them.

·       Only 35% contacted the local authority for support.

·       Of those who did seek support, nearly 60% faced discrimination

 

There is more research from akt here (2021-2022). Since that report, akt (with YouGov and the National Housing Federation) has produced this essential report for providers of homelessness service and social housing.

 

Abbie King is The Ark’s Charity Director. She shares her experiences as a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community. She says: “I am used to assumptions and prejudice annoying me and having to reply “no, she’s not my sister, she’s my partner” or “no, I am gay, I just have long hair”. 

 

“The regular weird conversations are as much as I can take on an average week! But until I started working at The Ark, I never considered the extra issues surrounding the homeless community and discrimination due to a protected characteristic. A terrifying number of young people leave home due to fear around their parents’ reactions towards their sexuality. When experiencing homelessness, a huge number of people pretend to be straight to fit in.

 

“Research from Stonewall shows that almost one in five LGBTIA+ people have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. Rates are even higher amongst trans people, with 25% having experienced homelessness at some point. This is a disproportionate amount of people and points to a level of intolerance and prejudice that shouldn’t exist in 2024.

 

“This is why I am proud to be part of The Ark - the services that we provide are offered regardless of religious beliefs, sexuality, race, gender or socio-economic status. No one coming to The Ark has ever experienced prejudice since we opened in 1972 and they never will.”

 

Ethan Green works at The Ark as a Support Worker and is keen to share his thoughts about supporting LGBTIA+ people over the years.  He says: “I feel that there is a strong machismo tendency amongst the male homeless cohort particularly, which prevents clients from exploring their sexuality. This can lead to clients repressing their sexuality. 

 

“It seems this is fueled by a desire for clients to keep themselves safe and stay protected from isolation within the homeless community, due to potential homophobia. Shrewsbury has a close-knit, entrenched homeless community; everyone knows everyone, and clients may feel afraid of the reaction of others in the cohort. 

 

“Regrettably, it seems it is easier for our clients to blend in amongst other rough sleepers in a 'strength in numbers' fashion. Given their situation on the streets I can understand that - their lives can be full of danger - however this need to blend in does reinforce machismo and homophobia, making it even harder to swim against that tide.”

 

If you have enjoyed this article, support us to support others.


We NEVER charge for our services, and we are funded entirely by grants and donations.


Thank you to everyone who supports us! Everything we do is because of your generosity.


You can support us to help people make positive changes in their lives by:

·       Making a donation via our page on the Charities Aid Foundation. Click here to make a regular or one-off donation online now. (Please remember to Gift Aid your donation – This means we will receive tax benefits and help ensure your donation goes further.)

·       Shop online through the Give as you Live shopping website. Through this portal, retailers agree to give a percentage of your purchase to us, at NO cost to you. More information and sign-up details here.

·       Call in at our shop at 14 Castle Street to make a purchase or donate unwanted items.

·       Give us a shout out and follow us on social media: we’re active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

If you would like to volunteer for us at The Shrewsbury Ark get in touch! We have lots of volunteer opportunities. Email us at volunteer@shrewsburyark.co.uk or telephone us via 01743 363305 to register an interest.

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