Federal government urged to act on LGBTIQ homelessness

LGBTIQ Homelessness youth. Homeless person lies on the concrete in stock photo alex greenwich
Photo: Adobe Stock

Four LGBTIQ organisations have united to call on the federal government to address high rates of LGBTIQ homelessness in Australia.

The Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Transgender Victoria, the New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and Intersex Human Rights Australia have made the submission to the federal inquiry into homelessness.

In it, the groups warn LGBTIQ Australians are at higher risk of homelessness compared to the broader population.

“This risk is further compounded for LGBTIQ youth and transgender, intersex and disabled people,” the groups state.

“However, there is little research into the causes, rates and experiences of LGBTIQ homelessness.”

According to a VGLRL survey last year, 47.5% of the LGBTIQ people surveyed had experienced homelessness, housing insecurity, or had been at risk of homelessness.

40% of the respondents had reported discrimination against them in the housing market.

Among trans and gender diverse people, 79% of respondents experienced homelessness in some form. Sixty-two percent had experienced discrimination in the housing market.

Lack of research is a barrier to addressing LGBTIQ homelessness

VGLRL co-convenor Nevena Spirovska said a lack of in-depth research is a “clear obstacle” to tackling the issue.

“[The higher rates] could be because we are kicked out of the family home because of our sexuality,” Spirovska said.

“It could be because of discrimination by landlords preventing entry to the rental market.

“It could also be because continued discrimination… contributes to LGBTIQ people having higher rates of mental health and drug and alcohol issues.

“This risk is heightened for LGBTIQ youth and transgender, intersex, and people with disability.

“However, [there is] little research into the causes, rates and experiences of LGBTQI homelessness.”

Transgender Victoria chair Brenda Appleton said trans and gender diverse people face “multiple layers of discrimination, as well as homelessness.”

Appleton said trans and gender diverse people need “inclusive services where they feel respected and safe” and have their authentic gender identity and gender expression validated.

NSW GLRL co-convenor Jack Whitney said the issue is particularly significant during the COVID-19 health crisis.

“Housing and shelter is a basic human right. It should be a right experienced by all and practiced in government legislation,” Whitney said.

Government urged to fund research and scrap discriminatory laws

The four groups want the Social Services Minister to include LGBTIQ people as a “priority cohort” in the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement.

They’re also asking the Morrison government to fund research and develop LGBTQI-inclusive guidelines for the sector.

The government should also scrap Sex Discrimination Act provisions used by faith-based employers and homelessness service providers to discriminate, the groups say.

The federal inquiry into homelessness in Australia began in February. The committee will look at factors affecting rates of homelessness and support and services for people at particular risk.

However at the end of March, the committee running the inquiry suspended it due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After parliament resumes in August, the committee will look at when it can restart work on the inquiry.

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