Hoxton homelessness charity concerned for LGBTQI+ young people during coronavirus lockdown

Before beoming akt's president Faz Bukhari was a young ambassador for the charity. Picture: akt

Before beoming akt's president Faz Bukhari was a young ambassador for the charity. Picture: akt - Credit: akt

A Hoxton-based LGBTQI+ homelessness charity is concerned about the impact the coronavirus lockdown is having on the young people they work with - often at risk of homelessness or self-isolating in environments hostile to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Akt's president Faz Bhukari with the CEO of akt Tim Sigsworth outside 10 Downing Street. Picture: Ja

Akt's president Faz Bhukari with the CEO of akt Tim Sigsworth outside 10 Downing Street. Picture: Jamie Luke Scoular - Credit: Jamie Luke Scoular.

Before the lockdown the charity akt could source emergency accommodation for a young rough sleeper within a day.

However, the various backpacker hostels, hotels and bed-sits which often house their young LGBTQI+ service users, particularly at risk of illegal eviction, have now been suspended or withdrawn under new government guidance.

London services manager Leigh Fontaine told the Gazette: “Local authorities took up a lot of those hotels and hostels as a provision to their emergency responses - so smaller charities like ours no longer have access to those services unless we go through [them].”

The government’s business closure guidance on March 23 caused confusion at the time when some B&Bs, hotels and hostels closed their doors and told residents to leave.

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But new exemptions on the guidance say: “if they are providing rooms to support homeless and other vulnerable people who cannot safely stay in their home, through arrangements with local authorities and other public bodies, they may remain open.”

Leigh said: “The central government has given local authorities an impossible task to make sure they provide suitable accommodation for all rough sleepers but we’re uncomfortable [knowing] that young people in hostile environments’ options are restricted. It’s actually something that my team has really struggled with.”

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The service manager says they are working closely with Hackney Council’s Greenhouse centre which provides services to homeless people in the borough but worries cases which aren’t so “clear cut” may fall through the gaps in government provision.

President of akt Faz Bukhari contacted the charity in his teens and knows first-hand how life-changing emergency accommodation can be for a young LGBTQI+ person.

The 29 year-old lost his parents at a young age and, after being evicted from his council house, found a place to stay with extended family.

But the community he grew up in was not accepting of his identity so he contacted akt and the charity provided him with a safe place to stay.

He told the Gazette: “Those three months were really fundamental in starting my life. It was the first time I ever felt safe and after a long time, I knew what home felt like. - a lot of people take that for granted.”

He says the lockdown will be a very difficult sitaution for many LGBTQI+ young people.

“It’s even more hostile now because you can’t express yourself, you have to watch what you say and worry about your well-being and your safety,” he said.

To donate to akt so it can continue to help provide housing and online support to young LGBTQI+ people click here.

For the latest coronavirus news from Hackney and across London follow our live blog here, visit our corona virus page, or join our Facebook group here.

Or to find more groups, networks and organisations like this in Hackney providing support during the Coronavirus lockdown visit our There With You Essential List.

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