Riyadh Khalaf shines a light on the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community. He explores homelessness among young LGBTQ+ people, meeting those affected by it.
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This programme contains some strong language.
Most LGBTQ people have at some point felt that deep fear of rejection
because of their sexuality
or their gender identity, and I know I definitely had it.
That fear of rejection is real because there is an insane statistic
that says one in four young homeless people in the UK is LGBTQ+.
So, why are so many young people in the community homeless?
And what is life really like for them?
I'm surprised that it is that high, really.
That's a sad figure, if it is one in four, but it doesn't shock me.
It's very shocking.
I literally didn't know that at all. One in four, that's so...that's really big.
-That's really high, yeah.
-One of my friends,
their family kicked them out when they were 16,
so they were just on the street for two years until they got their life
I grew up in Ireland, which is a beautiful setting...
..but it wasn't the setting for me.
I can't reach that note. Fuck off.
I've been in care, like, pretty much all my life.
That's because my mum and dad were alcoholics.
I met my husband in Coventry
and he died in 2010.
It kind of went tits up then, really.
I've been rough sleeping for about eight years.
But I'm still alive and I'm still breathing,
so I thank God for small mercies, eh?
A lot of LGBT people come to big cities to feel like they have a community
or just like-minded people around them.
But the problem is if something goes wrong, they can very,
very soon find themselves sleeping rough.
So, I've come to a very cold, very chilly Birmingham to meet Damien.
He's been sleeping rough for many,
many years and we're going to find out a little bit about his story.
Can you tell me the reason why you don't want us to show your face on camera?
Because I'm afraid of being kicked in the face
as soon as somebody sees this on BBC Three.
Because this is a gay homeless documentary.
They'll target you because you're gay?
Yeah. And that is a fear that I live with constantly.
Every night that I go to sleep, I fear this.
I've had my sleeping bag set fire to on the end.
Only for I was actually slightly awake,
I wouldn't be standing here doing this interview now.
I sleep with one eye open and one eye closed.
I don't even get any sleep, really.
If I had a choice, I'd be straight.
Because it's easier on my life.
I've been called a faggot and a queer, but...
I've lived with that all me life, so...
Do you not think it's sad that you've been desensitised to being called
-such awful names?
If I wasn't gay, I'd be called a fucking tramp.
No matter what you are, someone will always pick something
to speak about.
I've been disowned.
I haven't spoken to any of my family in...
..17 years, 16 years.
The day you said you were gay was the last day you spoke to them?
Yep. Did Mummy and Daddy accept you? Nah...
Yeah. Not straight away.
No. My dad found it very, very difficult.
My dad is from Iraq,
-and, you know, it's not really a good thing to be gay if you are from there.
And then you've got the Irish mixed in with Iraq!
Iraq, Irish Catholic. Hold up.
Honestly, before I came out, I thought I was going to end up on the streets, like you.
I'm only as lucky as I am because they brought me up,
and they looked after me and embraced me and they nurtured me.
-You didn't have that.
-I didn't have that.
But...no point in crying over spilt milk, is there?
Do you know what? I could be lying there in the puddle
and I'd still make people laugh.
Cos what's the point in being miserable?
Where is it going to get you?
We are all little children, all little babies of somebody.
And I think
we all deserve to have someone who makes us feel safe and loved and...
-You need to feel like you belong somewhere.
You need to have somewhere, regardless of where it is,
where you feel safe and you can be truly who you are.
Of course, at its worst, homelessness means rough sleeping.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg because there are so many people
that just go unseen, who are sofa surfing, they are in hostels,
or in and out of insecure accommodation.
Now, the Albert Kennedy Trust is a charity that specialises in
LGBT homelessness. I'm going to meet key worker Helen, who is hopefully going to
shed some light on just why so many young LGBTs find themselves without a home.
The AKT is Britain's only dedicated LGBTQ homeless charity.
-Hi, are you Helen?
-Hi, yeah, nice to meet you.
-Nice to meet you.
-How are you doing?
We are working with young people that are sort of between the
ages of 23 to 25.
And that's a real difficult time.
You know, we are talking about young people who have just been suddenly
kicked out of the house. It is just heartbreaking stuff.
People having to sleep in tents, you know.
People walking every night because they don't feel safe falling asleep on the bus.
People they thought were friends are pushing them into having sex,
and kind of in a roundabout way saying, you know,
you can sleep on my sofa if you have sex.
And obviously drugs - because for every group, it's an escape.
You know, people, it's frowned down, people giving homeless people alcohol...
-Because they need it.
-They need it so it is a difficult balancing act.
What kind of LGBTs are coming to you looking for help?
Every walk of life, really.
Every race, every religion, or major religion.
Homophobia, prejudice, anything like that,
it doesn't really matter where you come from,
it will exist there in some form.
Is it parental rejection that is the main reason these kids end up out of
a home or are there other things at play here?
Yeah. Parents do play a role in it, and yes, one parent,
sometimes two parents, just being very...homophobic and quite angry
and horrible to their own child.
The needs of LGBTQ homeless people,
are they different from those of straight homeless people?
Sexual health is a big thing but there isn't much support for that.
The issues are different, you know, the sex is different.
So, yeah, there are a lot of stuff that are specific for our young LGBTQ people.
We've got to give them skills to manage rejection.
When they first come to Purple Door, we do about two weeks where we're like,
"Yeah, let your hair down, relax, get some sleep,
"don't do things right on right on, get your strength back, recoup..."
Because once we start again, there is going to be no stopping.
They've kind of got to stay focused.
So, that is how we kind of prepare them, I suppose.
Gay boy. Back in school,
if you asked me that or called me that at 16, I would have
acted completely different now.
Faggot. Weirdly, by one of my friends who would laugh and
be like, "Yeah, but you know that I'm joking."
And it's like, "But it's not funny,
"it's not one of those words you can just use."
Tranny. It can be taken into different concepts so you've got to
kind of, like, identify which is positive and which is negative,
if that makes sense.
Batty man. I don't really care any more.
He is what he is, I am what I am.
If you don't like it, just take it or leave it.
Batty boy, chi chi man,
it's the embarrassment when it's shouted out in public
when you are... Just out of nowhere, you could just be going to the shop,
and just to hear that, it takes you, just, like...
The gay scene here in West Calder? What gay scene?
I'm an openly gay man.
But just recently, I've kind of came across the terminology
of gender neutral.
You know, sometimes I feel male, or sometimes I feel female.
Or there's other days where I don't feel male nor female,
I just feel me. Plain old me.
My mum couldn't look after me,
so I was taken off my biological family...
..and put into the care system.
I've never felt part of a community, I've always felt like an outsider,
it has made me feel more isolated, more depressed, which then
has led for me to be homeless.
I went to meet John in his old home town of Blackburn.
This is the last place that I called home prior to being homeless.
Do you think it was specifically homophobia that made you homeless?
Erm...cos for the four-and-a-half years that I stayed here,
I was...I got nothing but subjected to homophobia, you know.
Erm... Every day. Even going down to the local shops.
The dog's abuse I would get, you know.
I would wear my wigs or something, and they would pull them off.
I mean, I've been called, like, a paedophile and stuff.
Just for being gay. They have egged my windows.
They've graffitied my property. They've chucked stones at windows.
They've broke windows before.
Erm, and the firework through my door...
-Yeah, a firework.
Is there a standout memory of one day when they came down and you
could see them outside?
I was sitting there watching my telly,
quite the thing, and all I heard was a thud, out my window.
Next thing I know, a
big brick, a massive brick had went through it.
And they were all standing outside,
like, the gate, shouting and swearing.
And, you know, they were chucking rubbish and that in my garden.
-What were they shouting?
-Like, "Faggot, you're a poof..."
It got to the point where I was in that house, I would refuse to leave,
just if I had to somewhere, but I would come back as soon as I could.
How much can a person take?
At what point did you go, "No, I've had enough"?
After the four-and-a-half-year mark,
I just...I had a complete and utter meltdown.
How does it feel to be standing here?
I don't know. Quite emotional, I think.
But, you know what, I don't miss it. I don't.
You know, I miss maybe some of the memories I had in it but they're memories.
-You know, they're there, so...
-MAN SPEAKS INDISTINCTLY
No, you don't. Oh, so...
CAR HORN BEEPS CONTINUALLY
-This is the Blackburn mentality.
-Is this what it is like here?
-Yeah, the Blackburn mentality.
So, there's a man over there screaming and shouting at us
-because we are filming.
-Do you know who that was?
No, but I reckon it would have been the new tenant, probably.
-What did he say to you?
-Do you mind me saying?
No, no, please do.
He said, "You're filming the only gay in the village."
And I said, "Oh, we're filming an interview with John."
-And he said something about "that faggot bastard".
-Are you OK?
-Yeah, yeah. No, I deal with that...
-You're here with us.
-The gay team.
And you are no longer the only gay in the village.
-There's four of us.
I've never experienced that.
-But you're like, "Yeah, whatever," cos you're used to it.
It's, erm, what I have to put up with on a daily basis. It's pretty much the norm.
If you've not a loving environment to be
supported in, then you're not going to be able to support and love the
person that you are.
You don't come out once.
Like, each time you go somewhere else, you have to come out again.
So, you go to work, you go to school, you go and meet new people,
and you have to come out each and every single time.
So, it is nice to have, at home,
that stable place where you don't have to come out,
you can just... They know, you know, they all know what's happening
and you're just comfortable with each other.
I've been homeless for six months.
I identify as bisexual but I don't really feel like I want to put
a label onto it.
I was homeless because of a breakdown in my family,
within my family, due to hardship.
And because of my sexuality.
I feel like homelessness changes people's identification.
You don't feel yourself any more.
You lose what you were.
The impact homelessness has had on my life ranges.
Confidence, separation from society, not having support,
loss of friends and stuff.
Being homeless and part of the LGBTQ+ community seems more difficult than
other people I've met because it is not just one story,
it is like telling two stories.
Kristina has been living in a youth hostel for the past six months.
-Oh, this is lovely, Kristina.
-Aw, thank you.
Do you mind if I have a little poke around and have a little look?
-That's fine, yeah.
-Is this a Lana Del Rey-esque headpiece?
-I made it for prom.
-Can you try it on for me?
What was the first time that you noticed there might be something there?
I think I was about six. I was obsessed with Kylie Minogue.
I thought everyone thought she was really adorable.
She was in this, I think, a silver costume, and she looked brilliant.
-I Can't Get You Out Of My Head video?
And I just thought, like,
why am I so obsessed with this woman?
She is just so... She's just beautiful.
-Does Kylie still do it for you now?
-Is she your number one?
Dannii is lovely as well.
Oh, yeah? If you had a choice, though, Dannii or Kylie?
How did you end up in a place like this?
My mum didn't really treat me the same as my siblings.
And it got to a point where I thought, "I can't take it any more."
I wasn't allowed to use the bath, the washing machine, the cooker,
the fridge, use any of the facilities in the kitchen.
Every time I would get food out of the freezer,
she would accuse me of stealing.
I wasn't really allowed to go out.
If I came back, and she wasn't in a good mood,
she wouldn't let me back in. I just had no control.
It sounds almost like you were a prisoner.
-In your own home.
It was like that. I didn't know what to do with myself.
What is your family, if they are not going to support you in that situation?
It just doesn't make sense to me why they wouldn't want to love you because of...
because of that - it's just silly.
I just couldn't take any more.
I said to my teacher, "I don't know what to do.
"I'm already feeling suicidal, I already feel like I don't want to be
"here, and I can't do it any more."
She said, "Kristina, we can't have it," and called social services.
And that was it. My status was temporarily homeless for three months after that.
-Is this your girlfriend?
I'm loving the blue hair.
It's been all sorts of colours!
Being young and LGBT, has this situation affected you in the long term?
Definitely. Even at college, I say, "my partner".
I don't talk openly about having a girlfriend.
We never kiss in public.
And it really upsets me.
It is not OK to be around certain people, people are offended,
people don't want to see you do that.
I mean, Amy used to get bricks and stuff thrown at her on her way home.
I got pushed on a flight of stairs, and my face smacked off a wall.
And I just had glasses as well.
So, I literally just got them and it nearly went in my eyes and stuff,
-it was horrible.
-I can't believe the stuff that you have been through.
Mm-hm. I can't really accept it either.
-Do you think you ever will?
-Probably not, no.
You've had a roof over your head the whole time, yeah?
-Not one night on the street?
I feel I would be so vulnerable as well, especially.
-I don't think you'd survive.
You're too gentle. I think you need to be in a safe place like this.
Kristina's girlfriend Amy has supported her through her homelessness.
It would be like if I didn't have...
-Have you seen a change in Kristina? Over time?
I mean, we've been together for nearly three years now.
And it is just amazing, I think we've both grown a lot as people.
But, like, the changes you have made in your life,
like trying to make your situation better, it's phenomenal, really.
I wouldn't have coped at all,
at all, like, through school, through my dad, and just
everything at home, like, you're my rock, pretty much.
It sounds really sappy, but...
I wanted the chance to speak to Amy's parents about their support for both of the girls.
The first time that you got the pleasure of meeting Kristina,
you thought they were just mates, initially?
Yeah. Amy is quite...
She keeps a lot to herself, anyways,
so I've always kind of discovered things about Amy,
rather than, you know, we're having a good old chat about...
-..how things are going.
And, you, as the dad, what was your honest initial reaction?
When she said, "I've actually got a girlfriend," all I said was,
"Thank God I haven't got to worry about you getting pregnant."
My mum said the same thing.
Well, you are both unbelievably open and accepting.
I mean... Do you, as parents,
realise just how special that kind of love is,
and that not everyone has that?
If you thought about all the elements that made a person a person,
sexuality is...it's really like an orange, it's only one segment, isn't it?
That is just one thing, so why do people pick that one thing out,
and make it like that is what the whole person is about?
So, you two being such open and accepting parents,
what did it feel like, then, when you saw Kristina's situation?
Amy had said, "Well, can't she stay here for a while?"
I said absolutely not a problem.
But what I didn't want was her only having the option of being here so I
said that probably in the long term,
to find out how you could live independently.
People think their own ideology is so strong that they can't accept
anything that is on the outskirts of that.
And I can't understand why people can't be more accepting.
At some stage, perhaps as they get older, and they miss their child,
they will regret it. At some stage, they will.
It says, #ISawYourDadOnGrindr.
When I get picked on, it's a thing that
I either say in my head, or to them personally.
It takes my mind off the hurt
and the pain that they are causing.
Oh, excuse me, that's my phone, that'll be the council.
Hello. So, is this a temp tenancy?
Oh, right, OK.
That is OK, then... And...what about my belongings?
Thanks. Bye. Bye.
Well, there you go, a bit of good news.
I've got my temp tenancy the morra, so...I'm excited.
I'm nervous because I just don't know what I'm going into.
Like, through this situation, I've kind of lost my independence a bit.
I'm just packing some of my stuff. Just trying to get it all organised.
This is just like a stepping stone.
I'm getting somewhere in the line of homelessness.
Oh, even a wee seating area there. Look at that.
The old smell of cannabis.
This is 13.
So, I'll leave you.
-You can have a wee wander.
-So, this is your sitting room.
-All the stuff. Kitchen... Fridge...
-Pots and pans and all that stuff.
And at the back is your bathroom.
This is your bedroom. That's it!
-It is very empty.
-I'm sure it won't be long until you...
You want to go in and have a wee sit down?
Take it all in?
Despite having new house keys in his hands,
things for John are not so simple.
I'll be all right. I usually am.
I just feel a bit lost the now, to be honest.
I mean, I don't know.
I don't think I'm quite comfortable with the idea, to be honest.
It is just, I don't know the area, I don't know nobody...
I just feel like I'm going to become more isolated.
What is your first memory of when you realised you fancied fellas?
Do you remember Casper the friendly ghost?
-Do you remember when Casper turned into that boy?
This is so funny. I had the exact same crush!
All the girls at school were saying, "Oh, my God, he's gorgeous!"
And I was like, "Oh, he is gorgeous, isn't he?"
I must have been about 12, 13, or something like that.
And I think that was my first where I thought, "Hold up..."
Absolutely freezing tonight.
Like, I'm wearing these, and the tips of my fingers are...
They feel like they are going to fall off.
And he's got, like, two tiny layers on.
To be honest with you, I feel a bit stupid,
wearing all of this in front of him.
He's taking me around the local area,
showing me where he hides all of his stuff,
all of the sleeping bags, the quilts, and all of that,
and then the different spots in the town where he can sleep.
He says there is about 100 of them.
But he is going to show me the one where he...lays his head most often.
Is this going to be where you'll sleep tonight?
-Yeah. I need a fecking can now.
-How many cans in a day?
He has just gone in to get a can cos he has started to get shaky.
It has been, I think, an hour since he has had one.
I guess he just needs it to feel normal.
Which is understandable, I guess. A bit sad, but I've got to let him do his thing...
MAN SHOUTS ..and then, we're going to carry on.
Are you feeling better, since you got it?
I don't know, it just... It keeps me warm, really, do you know what I mean?
-Oh, that's a brothel!
-That's a brothel?
-Have you frequented it?
-Have I shite.
They don't do willies.
-Oh, they don't do willies?
-They don't do willies.
I'll go and show you now where we hide our stuff.
Look, sleeping bag and the quilt...
Now, we have another sleeping bag under there.
You put this one over,
to keep the rest of them dry.
Is there a risk, though, that another homeless person or a group
-of homeless people will come and...?
-Yeah, there's always that risk.
But it is a risk you are willing to take, really.
I guess. Where else are you going to put it?
-What is this place that we are going to now?
We are going on to the arches where I used to sleep.
-Are they railway arches?
Wow, what a place.
-Are you warm enough? Yeah?
-It's well warm.
Nice and cosy, you fecker.
Keep yourself warm.
Night, and God bless you, son.
In the cold weather, Damien gets regular visits from local outreach
workers Rick and Tash.
Would you still be here without them?
No. I'd be dead.
I would have died of hypothermia.
I worry about Damien.
If I don't see him in a week, I'm out searching for him.
To make sure he is still alive and not dead.
At this point, I've almost become institutionalised,
I'm almost used to being homeless, so I don't know nothing better.
Is there a hope that things will change?
Well, I know things will get better because they can't get any worse.
I know that.
I'm an optimist.
Anyone else that is out there and you are in the same situation as me,
please don't do the same thing as I am doing.
Get yourself indoors, because this is no life.
And it is not a life you should have to be used to.
It's a cruel but very real fact that there are so many young LGBTQ people
who are homeless because of their sexuality.
And yet, when you have spent your entire young life struggling with
your sexuality or your gender identity, and you are vulnerable because of it,
the horrible irony is that that's the point in your life where you
need a safe space or place to call home the most.
It has been a month since John moved into his temporary accommodation
here in Livingston, Scotland.
So, I've come to see how he's getting on.
-Hi, come in.
-Hi, how are you?
-I'm good, thank you. Come in.
-So, this is the pad.
-Yes, it is the pad.
-Can I have a little look around at your stuff?
Yes. Of course you can.
Where did you get these fellows from?
-They're brothers, are they?
-See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.
I love your taste in movies, as well.
-Sandra Bullock, Beyonce...
-Yes. And the pride flag.
-Why is it important to you to have them all over the house?
I don't know, it just...
It adds colour, for a start, on they white walls!
No, to me I think it just signifies, you know, love and peace and equality and diversity...
Where did you get this one?
It was in Edinburgh.
-My very first Gay Pride.
-This is precious!
Yes, this is very precious. This is like gold dust.
Wow. How important is it for you to have all of these things,
like, your own style in the place?
Oh, yeah, it's, like, really important to me,
because I feel a bit more secure when I see my things around.
How do you feel now that you are here?
I love the flat. The flat is amazing.
But I'm just not sure about the community yet.
You know. I don't know how the community is, but I am settling a bit.
How important is having a home for your mental health or for you just
-to function as a human?
it is important to me because my house is my sanctuary.
It is somewhere where I am meant to be safe and secure and somewhere
where at the end of a long day,
I can just come in and shut the door and be myself
-Put your wig on.
Put my wig on, yes. Or my make-up.
Or prance about, dancing to Gaga, you know.
Next year will be my year.
I keep saying that at the end of every year.
No, next year's going to be my year.
I'm going to make it my year.
Riyadh Khalef explores the issues behind the statistic that one in four young homeless people in Britain identifies as LGBTQ+.
He meets rough sleeper Damian on the streets of Birmingham, follows John as he is rehomed into a temporary flat in Scotland, and speaks to Kristina about how she ended up without a home.