Today, 17th May, marks International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia 2019 (#IDAHOBIT). This day seeks to shine a light on the discrimination faced by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex people (LGBTQI+). In this blog post, Focus Ireland’s Research Coordinator Sarah Sheridan highlights that in order to prevent LGBTQI+ youth homelessness and to effectively meet the needs of those in homeless services, research and robust data are required as a crucial first step.
Exactly four years ago, Ireland has made significant strides in enhancing LGBTQI+ rights with the passing of same-sex marriage by public vote. However, as Moninne Griffith (Chief Executive of LGBT Support charity BeLonG To) warned in today’s Irish Times “there is still a long way to go to unpick all the stigma and discrimination against gay and trans people, much of which goes unchallenged.”
For several years Focus Ireland youth services staff have reported high numbers of LGBTQI+ young people who are becoming homeless as a direct consequence of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Yet because this issue is so often hidden in services spaces due to stigma (or fear of violence or assault), the extent of the problem and the particular support needs of LGBTQI+ young people are largely unknown, particularly at a policy-level.
International research shows that LGBTQI+ are overrepresented in the youth homelessness population– including UK, Canada, UK, USA, and Australia. Though there are issues and challenges around measurement of the phenomenon in terms of it being underreported, most studies estimate that up to 40% of young people experiencing homelessness are LGBTQI+.
International research also shows that family rejection is a key contributing factor for many LGBTQI+ youth entering homelessness. Yet despite the recognised risks facing LGBTQI+ youth, there is a lack of homelessness prevention schemes for these young people (such as school-based supports or youth family mediation services with a focus on LGBTQI+ issues).
Risk is also heightened for these young people as mainstream services may not cater to the needs of these young people while staff may not be adequately trained around LGBTQI+ support needs or sensitivities. Furthermore, specialist housing or services for LGBTQI+ youth are non-existent in Ireland, as are gender-neutral homeless accommodation.
It is in this context that Focus Ireland, in partnership with BeLonG To, have commissioned a study on LGBTQI+ Youth Homelessness in Ireland. The study is currently in fieldwork phase. Young people affected by the issues are participating in confidential and in-depth interviews with Aideen Quilty (University College Dublin) while Michelle Norris (University College Dublin) is carrying out stakeholder interviews with policy-makers and front-line staff to explore how our service system can better cater to the needs of LGBTQI+ youth.
Focus Ireland’s study will mark an essential contribution to knowledge in an Irish context and a vital first step in informing policy and service responses in preventing and resolving LGBTQI+ youth homelessness. And perhaps in 12 months’ time as we reflect on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia 2020, we will have made substantial progress in trying to capture the scale of the problem as well as meeting the needs of these young people in a way which is both effective and sensitive.
If there are any young LGBTQI+ people who are experiencing homelessness or housing problems and who would like to take part in this confidential study, please email Aideen.Quilty@ucd.ie or Sarah.Sheridan@focusireland.ie or telephone/text Aideen directly on 089 9808 302. We offer a One4All voucher as a token of appreciation to all participants. Please note: This study is entirely confidential and all names, places, and any identifiable details will be removed.
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