Many of us take for granted having access to safe and stable housing but it is something that has a significant impact on our quality of life. There are opportunities for you to help ensure that people not only have access to adequate housing but also that people can live in their homes feeling safe and secure.
Whether you want to get involved with organisations working with homeless people or you want to take part in your local residents or tenants association there are many ways that you can get involved in improving housing provision in your community. Getting involved will also allow you to highlight the hidden issues that impact on gay people and help housing providers and homeless shelters to get better at looking after their welfare.
You may want to get involved in housing simply to improve the living conditions in the local area‚ whether that is improving the communal areas of your block of flats or addressing anti-social behaviour on your street. You may also feel passionately about homelessness in our society and want to provide support to some of the most vulnerable people in the community. You may especially want to help tackle the big problems that some lesbian, gay and bisexual people face accessing safe and secure housing.
For example, many young lesbian, gay and bisexual people find themselves homeless or in inadequate, unsafe and inappropriate housing - having been thrown out by their parents for coming out. Some young people face a choice they shouldn't have to face: either being homeless or staying at the house of someone they've only just met.
Research has also shown that lesbian, gay and bisexual people expect discrimination from housing providers - one in five expects to be treated worse when applying for social housing and this figure rises to one in four among older and younger LGB people. This poor service can often exacerbate other problems that residents and tenants face.
But a lot of these issues can be addressed through housing and homeless services getting to know a bit more about LGB people - so they can take steps to improve their services. You can help them to improve by providing them with information and highlighting the issues that lesbian, gay and bisexual people can face.
By volunteering in housing you can change people's lives - and the good news is that there's a huge variety of people and skills required. Whether you want to make a regular commitment, or you're only able to volunteer for a few hours now and then, there are opportunities to suit you.
Why not take a look at the different ways you can get involved:
You may not have the time to volunteer for a specific role but there is plenty you can do to help improve housing provision for local lesbian, gay and bisexual people. You could:
Housing associations are independent not-for-profit social enterprises which build and maintain affordable homes for people in housing need. They vary in size from fewer than 10 homes, to more than 50,000. Some housing associations also provide other accommodation, such as refuges for victims of domestic violence, or accommodation for asylum-seekers.
The board of a housing association is made up of volunteers. Their job is to ensure the association is well run and meets the needs of all its tenants. By being a board member you can help ensure the association delivers better services to all its tenants and implements policies to address the problems that lesbian, gay and bisexual tenants may face.
Resident or tenant associations empower local people to get involved in the decisions being made which will affect their lives and their homes. They're made up of residents from a particular area who work together to address local problems and improve the local area.
Tenants' safety can be a major issue - particularly for LGB people. Through resident and tenant associations you can lobby your local council to increase community policing or start CCTV initiatives. If particular residents are causing difficulty by being anti-social or homophobic a residents or tenant association would be a good place to raise the issue.
If there's no resident or tenant association where you live you can take the initiative and set one up yourself. Your council's housing department may be able to help with this or you can find out more by contacting the Tenants Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) Information Service at www.tpas.org.uk or visit the Direct Gov web page here.
Tenant inspectors are people living in social housing who work alongside housing professionals to assess the quality of the housing service. The pool of tenant inspectors needs to reflect the diverse range of people that live in social housing and it's vital that this includes LGB people, disabled people and black and minority ethnic people.
If you're interested in becoming a tenant inspector contact your housing association for details. Tenant Inspectors are expected to attend training, become familiar with legislation that affects social housing, be able to work in a team, record inspection findings and communicate clearly. Training, support and payment are provided.
For more information go to: www.tenantservicesauthority.org
By volunteering with a hostel or homeless accommodation you can help to provide much-needed support to some of the most vulnerable people in society. You can also help address the needs of LGB people who're homeless or in housing difficulty. The sorts of roles you can get involved in include:
Projects often need people who can offer their time as a mentor and it's important that everyone who uses these services feels able to talk about their situation free from judgement so that effective solutions to their problems can be found. For obvious reasons, young lesbian, gay and bisexual people who have been thrown out of their home for being gay may not feel confident about revealing this to others. There are therefore specific organisations working to help young lesbian, gay and bisexual people with housing problems.