Dearth of homeless services for transgender people, committee told

Official says LGBT+ individuals face issues due disputes at home over their sexual orientation

Sinn Féin Senator Fintan Warfield said US and British studies had found that LGBT+ people made up a significant portion of the homeless population. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

Sinn Féin Senator Fintan Warfield said US and British studies had found that LGBT+ people made up a significant portion of the homeless population. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

 

There is a lack of gender-neutral homeless accommodation to cater for transgender people, officials from the Department of Children have told the Oireachtas committee on youth affairs.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone and her department officials were before the committee to discuss issues affecting the LGBT+ community.

Department official Linda O’Sullivan said it “has emerged there is a dearth of gender-neutral facilities in homeless services” and that this was affecting the trans community,

She said information and support had to be targeted at parents to address the “root causes of some of the high incidences of homelessness in the LGBT community” as young people were made homeless following disputes at home due to their sexual orientation.

Sinn Féin Senator Fintan Warfield noted a lack of data around how pervasive homelessness was within the LGBT+ community. He said US and British studies had found that LGBT+ people made up a significant portion of the homeless population.

Department official Olive McGovern told the committee there was “certainly” a need for research and to gather data on the number of LGBT+ people accessing homeless services.

Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) said LGBT+ people were “over represented in homelessness statistics” when compared to the overall population, with trans people particularly vulnerable.

There was a lack of services for homeless trans people, a spokeswoman for TENI said, often leaving people “unsafe and unsupported” during times of crisis.

A survey of the trans community conducted by the charity in 2013, found 15 per cent of respondents were or had been homeless at one point in their lives.

“Homelessness services need to be accessible for everyone, which for trans people can mean inclusion in either gender-segregated or gender-neutral services, depending on their own circumstances,” the spokeswoman said.

Unlike elsewhere in Europe, Ireland does not have any homeless accommodation run specifically for people from the LGBT+ community, she said.

TENI receive regular reports from trans people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, who have had negative experiences seeking support services, she said.