UK LGBT housing organisation Stonewall Housing mark their 30th year of operation this month, but their leaders say there is too much work still to be done to relax on the occasion.
Stonewall Housing said in a statement: “As the welfare reforms start to bite, this is the reality of life for many of our clients in 2013: hunger, poverty and uncertainty. Although we’ve achieved much, it doesn’t feel like an appropriate time to celebrate.
“Stonewall Housing was the first organisation in the UK to use Stonewall in its name: and we’re proud to have served the lesbian, bisexual, gay and trans communities ever since.”
30 years ago, Stonewall Housing was set up against a backdrop of homophobia. The age of consent was still 21. It was illegal for gay men to have sex in a house if there was another person in the building. There were no hostels for young homeless lesbians or gay men. So a group of enlightened individuals decided to change this and started a housing association, working with Islington Council to open two houses offering temporary accommodation for homeless lesbians and gay men.
“We called it Stonewall Housing Association, because if you were lesbian gay, bisexual or trans, you knew what it was,” Peter Davey, one of the founding members of Stonewall Housing recalled. “So those that knew what Stonewall meant, got it and those that didn’t know thought, ‘what a marvellous name for a housing association’.”
Stonewall Housing’s original focus was on young homeless people. Now, 30 years on, their focus is broader.
“We still provide supported housing to over 50 young LGBT people every year. But we do much more than that: we provide specialist housing advice to over 1,200 LGBT people every year; we run partnership projects for young LGBT people, we host groups to promote discussion around domestic abuse and to improve housing options for older LGBT people and we seek to improve services provided by other organisations through lobbying, training and consultancy work which is shaped by the individual experiences of our clients. We’ve recently also been awarded funding by the Cabinet Office through Nesta to develop a unique project that seeks to end the isolation of older LGBT people,” Stonewall Housing stated.
“Housing is not better or worse for LGBT people today,” Bob Green, CEO of Stonewall Housing says. “It’s different. People have different and more varied needs. Many are facing real financial hardship, are struggling to pay their rent and lack extended family support at times of crisis. Others are part of the hidden homeless. And isolation, particularly of older LGBT people, is a growing issue.
“Despite legal changes for the better, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia continue to affect thousands of LGBT people,” Mr Green continued. “While we’re proud of turning 30, if we had one birthday wish, it would be this: safe spaces for all LGBT people. That would be worth celebrating.”
Stonewall Housing are available to give advice to LGBT people facing difficulties in housing on 0207 359 5767 or via their website. They pledge that their 30th year will include statements and events to come.
Earlier this year Sir Ian McKellen, patron of homelessness charity the Albert Kennedy Trust, said: “Every cruel religious leader, every religious politician or bigot who says something anti-gay should be ashamed. They are turning our kids onto the street when their parents listen to the ridiculous remarks that they make.”