Housing experiences of older LGBTQs

This article come from The Guardian. It’s an article from 2012, but the issues, unfortunately, are still prevalent today.

Is the housing sector prepared to meet the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as they get older?
Men carrying rainbow flags take part in annual Gay Pride Parade

Three in five LGBT survey respondents said they were not confident that housing services would understand or be sensitive to their needs Photograph: Francesco Spotorno / Reuters/REUTERS

By John Thornhill and Tina Wathern on 3 May, 2012

A generation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) men and women who came out of the closet following the decriminalisation of male homosexual acts in 1967 and the New York Stonewall riots of 1969 are now entering retirement.

In addition to the housing challenges that face us all as we age, there are particular challenges that face older LGBT people, who are more likely to live alone and less likely to have children or extended family networks they can call on for support. Some are reluctant to explore support from formal housing, health or social care providers because of a historic fear of discrimination. Many older LGBT people at some point in their lives have experienced criminalisation in law, stigmatisation by society, condemnation from religious authorities and have been pathologised by medical practitioners.

Stonewall’s research into the experiences and expectations of older LGBT people found that three in five respondents were not confident that social care and support services, like paid carers or housing services, would understand or be sensitive to their needs. Half said they would be uncomfortable coming out to care home staff and one third said they would be uncomfortable being out to a housing provider.

The sector needs to gain a better understanding of the challenges that older LGBT people face in relation to housing. The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) recently published its draft equality and diversity objectives. The HCA is committed to an evidence-based approach to investment decisions, but it is also clear that there is uneven national and local information about the housing needs of older LGBT people. There is a risk that a lack of data about their real housing needs, as a consequence of ignorance, marginalisation and discrimination, could be misinterpreted as evidence of an absence of real needs.

A new approach to regulation in the housing sector that emphasises transparency, tenant scrutiny and accountability, offers real opportunities for housing providers to generate evidence about the needs of their customers in their full diversity, and to provide services which are not only sensitive, but appropriate and ultimately good value for money.

There are some good news stories. Anchor, the largest not-for-profit provider of housing, support and care in England has established an LGBT network group. This has acted as a key mechanism for providing support to LGBT staff and customers and has helped the organisation embrace equality and diversity issues.

Stonewall Housing has recently been awarded a three-year grant by Comic Relief to develop the work of its older LGBT housing group. This project will support and develop best practice to allow funders and policymakers to make informed investment decisions and lay the foundations for a quality mark for housing about LGBT customers.

In The Coming of Age, Simone de Beauvoir reminds us how society tends to attribute non-subject status to older people, among other things, because of their exclusion from erotic possibilities. There is a lesson here for housing. The sector needs to recognise that sexual orientation and gender identity do not disappear on retirement. Increasingly, a generation of older LGBT people who have lived their lives as out and proud citizens, will demand that their wants and needs are seen and provided for by their service providers – and that will be the beginning of a new journey of liberation for us all.

John Thornhill is senior policy and practice officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing

Tina Wathern is older LGBT housing group co-ordinator at Stonewall Housing

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One thought on “Housing experiences of older LGBTQs

  1. Pingback: LGBTQ carers | Doctor Dementia and the Dementia Adventure

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