LGBT+ charities are creating coronavirus funeral funds for queer elders without support networks
LGBT+ groups in the UK are applying for a government grant to pay for coronavirus funerals for poorer members of the LGBT+ community.
Older LGBT+ people are at particular risk in the pandemic as they are more likely to live alone and suffer from poorer health than their heterosexual peers.
Volunteers in the charity sector are now rallying to deliver food, phone vulnerable elders and even raise funeral funds, Reuters reports.
“We need to get cash together to bury our neighbours; that’s the reality of the situation,” said Carla Ecola, who runs The Outside Project, an LGBT+ homeless shelter in London.
Along with several other advocacy groups, Ecola is applying for a £20,000 government grant to establish a funeral fund for LGBT+ elders without family support networks.
She’s among several LGBT+ advocates who are scrambling to provide tailored support for queer elders during coronavirus, who may be unwilling to seek help from charity and outreach services available to the wider community.
“They’re probably more likely to have experienced hate crime from their neighbours,” Ecola explained. “Now they’re feeling vulnerable they don’t want to link up with the mutual aid group next door.”
With many LGBT+ people having lost partners and friends to AIDS in the 80s and 90s, 60 per cent of LGBT+ elders now “lack companionship”, a 2016 study found.
Unsurprisingly, the pandemic is dredging up past traumas for many people who lived through this time, particularly as their loneliness is compounded by face-to-face services in the community being forced to close.
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“The need is tremendous,” David Vincent, the head of programs at Nottingham charity SAGE, told Reuters.
“Discrimination has also affected their employment. As a result, they may not have the savings or pension… many folks have. Their ability to prepare is not the same. So they are often… left in a complete crisis.”
SAGE is calling about 2,000 vulnerable older people at least every other day and delivering 200-250 daily meals. Everything from counselling sessions to watercolour painting classes have also been moved online.
And the LGBT+ helpline Switchboard is encouraging older people to get in touch if they are struggling with their mental health in isolation.
“I know now we’re all self-isolated and in lockdown, but one thing I definitely feel is that there is a bonding, community drive. People reaching out and volunteering or helping those who are isolated and can’t look after themselves,” said Switchboard’s co-chair Trish Walker.
“Maybe that’ll be a positive outcome of such a difficult time.”