Greater Manchester’s first commissioned homeless service for people identifying as LGBTQ+ and experiencing homelessness has opened in the region.
The new accommodation is situated on the outskirts of the city and has six modern flats for people aged 18 plus, providing residents a safe place that is free from discrimination, while also ensuring that they receive support.
It has been set up by housing association Riverside, one of the largest providers of homelessness services in the country. It is part of Great Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham’s A Bed Every Night (ABEN) initiative which aims to provide short-term accommodation for every rough sleeper in the region.
One of the first residents to move into a flat is Elaine who has come from the emergency hotel provision in Gorton also run by Riverside. This supported service was set up as part of the government’s Everybody In campaign to protect rough sleepers from the spread of Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s such a lovely place, I’m so pleased to have the opportunity to live here where I can relax and be myself,” explains 61-year-old Elaine.
“Living here is like being with family so I don’t feel like I’m on the outside. The staff have experience with LGBTQ+ people and can provide the help needed. It’s nice to be included and I’m pleased that there are staff here to help me. It is all quite overwhelming.”
Elaine lived in Spain for 20 years and returned to the UK in October and self-isolated for 14 days before going to the emergency hotel.
She added: “I lived in Spain for 20 years and ended up living on the streets in doorways for a few months’ and received a lot of abuse so I didn’t want go through that again. It was unnerving, you can’t relax or sleep in case you get attacked, stabbed or abused so you don’t know whether you will wake up and be OK.
“I’m over the moon that everything is falling into place and I can start to live a normal life. I’m very fortunate to be able to spend Christmas in my new home and it is a fresh start to the New Year.”
One key element Riverside uses in all of its homeless services is creating a service that is designed to take the psychological and emotional needs of people into account, called Psychologically Informed Environments. In this instance the housing service has been adapted for people identifying as LGBTQ+ so they feel safe and comfortable to be themselves and their needs are better met.
The service only opened its doors this week and already has a full house so residents can spend Christmas in their new home.
Eleanor Watts, Riverside’s Area Manager who oversees the project, added: “We are delighted to be opening this new homelessness service for people in the LGBTQ+ community so they can feel safe and secure and without fear of discrimination, while giving them the freedom to be who they are.
“Many people identifying as LGBTQ+ can end up homeless due to a variety of reasons such as losing their job or a family breakdown after coming out so they have little or no support from their relatives.
“It can also be difficult for LGBTQ+ people to open up to others especially those in authority so this supported service will help break down these barriers. Our support workers focus on supporting the person’s needs to help them move on in life and live independently in their own home.”
As a social housing provider Riverside is already signed up to the HouseProud Pledge scheme, the professional network for LGBTQ+ people working in the housing sector, designed to ensure Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer residents are able to enjoy their homes without fear of discrimination.
John Glenton, Executive Director for Riverside Care & Support and Executive Sponsor for LGBTQ+ staff network, said: “Providing inclusive services remains as important today as ever.
“As the LGBTQ+ community is now more broadly accepted we can assume that discrimination towards them no longer exists – this is not true. We are committed to providing LGBTQ+ inclusive services to our customers and it remains a priority for Riverside.”
ABEN initiative was launched in the region by Mayor Andy Burnham in 2018 and has helped more than 3,100 people into emergency accommodation.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “I am so proud to see A Bed Every Night evolve to respond to the range of needs of people sleeping rough in Greater Manchester.
“It is vital that we provide accommodation and support that best enables people to get off the streets. This dedicated service for LGBTQ+ people is another big step towards making sure everyone receives the help, the safety, and the security that can really make a difference to their lives.”
Cllr Luthfur Rahman, Manchester City Council’s lead member for Homelessness, said: “LGBTQ+ people are presented with challenges beyond those affecting others vulnerable to homelessness. Discrimination remains an intolerable part of our society and I think it’s crucial that we can provide the tailored support people need to feel safe and secure if they need to access homeless accommodation.”