PinkNews.co.uk Exclusive

Ruth Kelly appears to have forgotten about the gay community again, this time by failing to mention them in a speech about homelessness.

The Albert Kennedy Trust, England’s only charity supporting housing for members of the LGBT community, criticised Ms Kelly for not mentioning the “hidden homeless.”

In a speech to the Andy Ludlow homelessness awards today.

She outlined the importance of tackling the fundamental causes of homelessness, “The breakdown of relationships in the home accounts for many older people being homeless too. Around 20 per cent of all homelessness begins this way. In many cases, mediation has proved the answer already – and could be for many more. In future, we will expect all local authorities to offer mediation services when things start to go wrong.

Ms Kelly unveiled a £164m package for helping young homeless people, she said, “It is unacceptable for a civilised society like ours to expect homeless 16 and 17 year olds to be on their own in bed and breakfast hotels. This is one of the worst faces of homelessness today. In many cases their parents are no longer willing to have them at home. Nearly one in four of new cases falls into this category.

“These are young people at their most vulnerable, who are a short step from throwing away their future and never realising their potential.

“We are making a commitment today that by 2010 16 and 17 year olds will not be placed in bed and breakfast hotels unless it is an emergency.

Richard McKendrick, Chief Executive of the AKT, was disappointed not to hear the issues of gay homelessness being mentioned, he told PinkNews.co.uk: “Whilst we welcome any commitment to increased investment to eradicate and prevent homelessness I was somewhat disappointed not to hear mention of the ‘hidden homeless’, those young people who don’t feature in the official statistics but have been forced to leave home and end up sleeping at mates, sleeping at aunt’s or uncles, and sometimes putting themselves at risk by sleeping at the homes of strangers, just so they have a roof over their head for a night.

“Those young people coming to AKT, forced to leave home because of their sexuality, are often among these hidden, vulnerable people.

He called on the government to provide all young people with a roof over their heads, “Fundamentally, we do welcome any Government words and initiatives to support the homeless but the Government also need to do more to eradicate the reasons for homelessness, do more to tackle homophobia and have a real, long lasting commitment to providing every young person with a safe and secure home in which to live free from discrimination and fear,” he said.

Homeless Link, a network for homeless charities, says it will be forwarding a copy of ‘No Straight Answers: Homelessness and Sexuality’ to the Department for Communities and Local Government in order to draw attention to the ‘unique problems’ facing LGBT homeless.

A spokesperson for Homeless Link said gay teenagers are an important group, “Ruth Kelly acknowledged that nearly a quarter of all new homelessness involves young people and is the result of ‘parents no longer willing to have them at home’.

“LGBT teenagers are particularly vulnerable to homelessness caused by breakdowns in family relations. They will also be more vulnerable if they are placed in inappropriate accommodation.

“This is one area where effective family mediation could be extremely useful, keeping families together and working through their issues.”

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesperson told PinkNews.co.uk: “We are committed to tackling all forms of homelessness.

“Issues of mediation would be particularly relevant to the gay community.”

Ms Kelly was criticised earlier this year after being given a role which includes representing the gay community, despite never voting for gay rights.

She received further criticism recently over a delay in Sexual Orientation Regulations, which her department oversees, after it was rumoured that she would allow exemptions for religious groups.