LGBTIQ People, Discriminated Against and Homeless, The Very Bottom of Deprived Communities
Homelessness is something that you only read about in certain speciality papers. It is not something that you think will happen to you…until it actually happens to you. The downward slope to homelessness can begin as nonchalantly as being fired from your job and struggling to find an alternative. It could be a case of some poor LGBTIQ child that needs to be protected from their own family. The runaways, rejects and no-hopers in society are together bandied as a collective group of the homeless. The social services that are provided for them are residual in nature and designed to humiliate the recipient as far as possible. The rationale is that if they make it so uncomfortable for you when receiving assistance, you will eventually decide that it is in your best interests to find a job and a house.
The only problem is that many LGBTIQ people do not have a choice as to whether they are homeless or not. It just happens to them and they are supposed to cope in the best ways that they can. Any support that is given to them is provided so grudgingly that they are actually left with a bitter taste in the mouth after receiving it. For gay people, homelessness becomes a terror. The entrenched prejudice and lack of feeling on the part of the society in which they live is actually magnified by their poor financial or social state. The underlying feelings of divine retribution are never far off the surface. If the person happens to also have a drug problem or addiction, they enter into the realms of a triple whammy in which everything seems to go wrong at the worst time possible.
The De-Gay Gentrification of Communities
Due to widespread discrimination and being constantly ostracized, gay people have sometimes congregated in certain urban conurbations where they are relatively free to express themselves. This is a melting pot of LGBTIQ people, ethnic minorities, the poor, the young and the bohemian. Suddenly what started as the grim ghettos of queer life became fashionable. The Brooklyn enclave of Williamsburg is a classic example. The house prices just become so high that the original gay inhabitants are left loose. Young and rich liberals who are looking to enhance their street cred and escape the drudgery of suburbia are never too far behind. They come with their families and suddenly it becomes uncomfortable for gay people to be kissing in front of the children.
As gentrification has seeped into the conurbations that previously provided a safe haven for LGBTIQ people, they have been pushed out into the unknown. Neither the rural backwaters of religious Conservatism nor the boring middle class enclaves of suburbia will do. For a start, the gay families and communities cannot possibly find work; let alone housing in those areas. I know that someone somewhere is going to say: “But they are always rich, them queer ones”. That is a myth. Many LGBTIQ people are stranded in a life of mounting debt and limited opportunities. Those that come to the top are only a small fraction of the iceberg of under-privilege that sits underneath.
It is not always just about housing. Even the so called pink pound is under attack from the capitalist vultures that only a few years back were decrying the existence of welfare queens in our cities. After being systematically excluded from society, LGBTIQ people started their own businesses that primarily catered for people within the community. Hence the rise of gay pubs, clubs and eating spots. Once these became a runaway success (who does not want to associate with friendly people?); suddenly the previously exclusively straight venues changed their tack. It was now good to advertise that you were “gay friendly”. The fierce competition ended up pushing out the very community that started these businesses. It is what the political scientists might refer to as elite capture or even co-opting.
LGBTIQ People, The Victims of Harassment and Abuse
A straight person may find it incredulous to believe that a person can be driven out of their own home because of whom they live. Such stories seem like fake tales from a bad Victorian morality story. Instead they are happening in our lives on a daily basis. Suddenly the values voters in a given community decide that gay people are not right for them. A number of discriminatory proposals are put on the ballot box. The city or community overwhelmingly votes for them but then are left wringing their hands in frustration when the results are announced. Their bigotry is not meant to be exposed. It is meant to be hidden and celebrated in the privacy of their own homes.
At other times the harassment and abuse happens right at home. I could make a good earning writing about the number of times I have heard a parent exclaim that they would kick out their kids if they found out that they were gay. I am sometimes tempted to inquire whether these kids can be exchanged for a refund since they are not fit for purpose. The reality is that many LGBTIQ teenagers just find it impossible to stay at home. The abuse may be overt and determined such that the child feels that they are no longer welcome at home unless they change their orientation. It can also be overt and hidden but with the ultimate result of pushing the kids out.
The notion of shelters was once flouted in major cities as a means of dealing with LGBTIQ youth that are victims of violence. However, that too faced numerous challenges including finance and management issues. Few charities are going to prioritize a community that they consider immoral in the first place. Those that deign to interact with the “gays” end up wanting to convert them; something that is not only offensive, but also nearly impossible to do without resorting to very extreme measures that are tantamount to serious assault.
An Escalation of Problems
Being homeless is not the end of the line. Rather it is the beginning of the end. The problems just keep mounting up. Being homeless means that you do not have an address. That can be terrible for anyone that wants to access any type of service. The banks will not touch you with a barge pool. You are always hounded by the cleaners and police who just want you out of the way. The public is initially sympathetic (particularly if you are sing or play the guitar well) but they soon tire of dropping pennies in your heart. If you are lucky, some psycho is not going to beat you into a pulp for no other reason than that you are available and vulnerable. Getting out of homelessness is one of the hardest things to do and society does not give you any little pushes out there.
For the LGBTIQ youth, the challenges become even worse because they are subject to harassment and even sexual assault. Those that become desperate can turn to prostitution and drugs as a means of survival. That course has its own perils which could ultimately mean that you end up losing your life. Few people in the policy-making arena have been able to accurately diagnose and treat the problem of homelessness. However, it is now being recognized as a serious risk for the LGBTIQ community. The thing that is missing is a comprehensive and effective strategy for tackling the problem headlong.
Some argue (convincingly sometimes) that state and policy interventions are not always the best solution. The government cannot start providing “gay housing”. Now that would really bring out the Alt Right onto the streets. Instead what they can do is provide temporary shelters for people that have lost their homes or are otherwise without adequate housing. This can be in the form of B&B facilities. That should not be the end of the story but also an opportunity to try and get the people back into work. We know that when people work, many of their problems begin to reduce. They can earn an income and have a better array of options to choose from when deciding where and how to live.
Changing the LGBTIQ
That is why it is so important for any organization that seeks to promote the interests of LGBTIQ people to actually consider where and how they are housed. It is a fundamental human need but one which is sometimes ignored in favour of the other needs. The implication is that everyone gets a house somewhere and that is just fine. In reality, not everyone gets a house. There are people for whom the park has become home. If we fear to go out in the dark, just imagine the nightmare for someone that has to live in that environment every day of their lives. Then if that person is also part of a hated and marginalized community; the problem turns into a major life crisis.