Housing and homelessness among LGBT people

Published by Dr Peter Matthews

When we think about the living arrangements of lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans- people it is easy to fall into stereotypes portrayed in the popular media – Will from the sitcom Will and Grace living in his luxury apartment; or Stuart from the ground-breaking Queer as Folk living in a trendy, inner-city loft apartment in Manchester. Some of this stereotype is supported by academic literature.

Traditionally, LGBT people were excluded from accessing mortgage finance, so were often among the first-wave gentrifiers that moved into cheap inner-city housing and upgraded it, as shown in this case study of Atlanta, Georgia by Doan and Higgins. Recent US analysis by Florida suggests that gay men, in particular, without the costs of childcare, higher incomes, and with no need to live near suburban services, are now a key group of “bohemians” moving back into inner-cities to access services such as trendy bars, theatre, museums and art galleries.

Other research presents a more concerning, and bleak story of LGBT housing choices. The Albert Kennedy trust have estimated that LGBT individuals make up 24 per cent of all young homeless people in the UK. Research led by Dr Peter Matthews of the Faculty of Social Sciences, found that 20 per cent of all non-heterosexual people in Scotland live in the most deprived 15 per cent of neighbourhoods. This compares to 14 per cent of all heterosexual people in Scotland who live in the most deprived neighbourhoods. This suggests that non-heterosexual people in Scotland are slightly more likely to have limited housing choices and thus live in a deprived neighbourhood.

In that research we theorised that these people might have a particular “housing pathway” which reduced their housing choices: poorer employment opportunities, and thus a lower income; poorer health; and experiences of homelessness. The previous analysis of data from the Scottish Health Survey did suggest this group of people were marginally more likely to be single (and so likely to have a lower household income); in slightly poorer health and slightly older than the rest of the population of deprived neighbourhoods, suggesting some of these factors could be at play.

In a new research project, Dr Matthews is exploring further this “housing pathway” and finding out about the housing choices and experiences of LGBT people in Scotland. Working with LGBT Youth Scotland and The Rock Trust, among others, the research seeks to speak to young LGBT people who have experienced homelessness and to understand how they became homeless and their experiences of accessing services and, eventually, being housed. The research also seeks to speak to LGBT people who have lived in the most deprived neighbourhoods as measured by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation for five years or more to understand how they ended up living there, and their experiences.

These issues have been under-researched in both homelessness research and human geography. The research will also be applied – by working with LGBT, housing and homelessness organisations, the findings will feed into service improvements to better tailor services for LGBT people and help them improve outcomes for LGBT service users.

If you want to know more about the research, or wish to share your experiences of homelessness or of living in a deprived neighbourhood and you identify as LGBT, please contact Dr Peter Matthews.

About the author

Dr Peter Matthews is a Senior Lecturer of Social Policy within the Faculty of Social Sciences and leader of the Public Services and Governance research group. His research interests mainly focus on inequalities in the urban context and how policy can tackle or exacerbate these. He is also interested in socio-economic and class inequalities, as well as inequalities due to sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity or disability. Read more.