Rainbow community face high rates of homelessness - study

Source: Radio New Zealand

The rainbow community faces homelessness at a significantly higher rate than other New Zealanders, new research shows.

Homeless file image.

By Felix Walton of rnz.co.nz

The study explored the relationship between Takatāpui/LGBTIQ+ and homelessness, and was carried out by researcher Dr Brodie Fraser.

Earlier research from Fraser examined the experiences of eight people from the LGBTIQ+ community who had been homeless.

There was a clear disparity in the proportion of homeless who were LGBTIQ+, Fraser said. However, New Zealand lacks comprehensive data on the LGBTIQ+ population, so they made use of international figures.

"Our communities usually make up about 5 to 10% of the broader population," but "about 20 to 40% of people experiencing homelessness are part of the rainbow community."

Provisional research from Fraser's second study now suggests that housing issues faced by New Zealanders are all exacerbated further for the rainbow community.

"All of these things add up," they said. "Discrimination is obviously one of the main contributing factors, but poverty is [also] a massive issue, and tight housing markets, and the increased cost of living."

Members of the Takatāpui/LGBTIQ+ community faced an increased risk for issues that were often tied to homelessness, Fraser said.

"Family environments are a really key contributor of homelessness.

"Often young people will come out, and either their parents kick them out of the house, or home becomes such an uncomfortable and unpleasant place that they leave."

As a result, Fraser said members of the rainbow community were forced into unsafe or unsustainable living arrangements.

Their provisional research showed little protections against homophobia and transphobia in the housing market.

"Our communities are forced to make trade-offs such as overcrowding, living in unhealthy housing, and living with discriminatory flatmates or landlords, to avoid homelessness," they wrote.

Even the systems designed to remedy homelessness regularly fail the rainbow community.

"If you go to your GP and they're not particularly queer friendly, or trans friendly, that lowers people's institutional trust," they said.

"They're a lot less likely to seek out support later on, when they need it."

Fraser recently met with Auckland's Rainbow Communities Advisory Panel. Among their recommendations were targeted homelessness services for the Takatāpui/LGBTIQ+ community, and for discrimination to be considered as a factor in assessments for people seeking public housing.

Despite the dour findings, Fraser was optimistic for the future and encouraged by the panel's response.

"I think we're really just at the beginning of understanding this issue in Aotearoa," they said.

"I'm really hoping that after next year's census we'll see some really good national statistics come out."

The 2023 census will be the first to feature questions about sexual identity and gender.