Homophobic reactions to coming out highlighted as a main cause of homelessness in Ireland

A new report shows how attitudes to LGBTQ+ people are leading to homelessness and the violence many homeless people face.

A rainbow over a house

Content warning: Contains mention of sexual assault. 7% of people identified negative issues around coming out as the reason why they are homeless in a new report published on Monday. It was the fifth most cited reason for homelessness, behind addiction, job loss, family break up and domestic violence.

The report, Empowerment to Rights, is based on 100 in-depth interviews with homeless people in Dublin conducted between September and October of last year and was carried out by BABS Empowerment Project and Inner City Helping Homeless. It paints a harrowing picture of what is happening on Dublin’s streets and the lack of supports available to the most vulnerable in society.

One person interviewed for the report said that he became homeless after coming out and divorcing his wife. “I grew up a closet homosexual, when my wife found out she said I was a paedophile. I was beaten up and my family disowned me.” Others spoke of similar stories. “I had to leave my family home when I came out and I had to leave the town I lived in because there were no services available to me.”

40% of respondents said they had experienced sexual assault, including those in the LGBTQ+ community. One respondent detailed how, “The guy said he was not gay, he just wanted to teach me a lesson.” Many spoke of how they were not believed or were too afraid to report the incident and that even when they did, it went nowhere. “I was raped five times and I reported it but the DPP would not push the case forward,” shared another.

88% of the respondents said they had experienced bullying/intimidation while homeless. When asked to elaborate, one respondent said, “For my sexual choice and just being homeless”, another simply responded, “I am gay”.

Last September, Focus Ireland and Belong To carried out research into LGBTQ+ youth homelessness. Some of their main recommendations were for homelessness services to “commission appropriate specialist training from LGBTQI organisations for staff working in the key access points and services” and for Focus Ireland to carry out further research into “the international evidence on the impact of dedicated LGBTQI+ emergency accommodation within homeless services.”

This is in keeping with what respondents of the Empowerment to Rights report felt needed to be done. When asked what they wanted the government to do, many wanted to see more LGBTQ+ centred supports. Several mentioned the idea of a LGBTQ+ hostel  – “Build a LGBTQ hostel and do it right, have information and be open with people and be strict with this hostel and please build homes.” 

The findings underline the “urgent need for comprehensive wraparound support services to be implemented.” They also show “a lack of coordination and communication between many organisations in the sector” which is leading “to service duplication in some instances and in others, a lack of ownership which has prevented an efficient response.” The report also joins the calls of many of the homeless people interviewed for the urgent need to build more houses. 

Support for victims of sexual violence is available from Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s 24-hour helpline, 1800-778888; Men’s Aid Ireland national confidential helpline, 01-5543811. Support for LGBTQ+ people is available from the National LGBT Helpline, 1890 929 539.

© 2021 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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