25 Dec 2017

'People don't want to rent to us'

11:13 am on 25 December 2017

Christmas is often a time for family lunches, gift giving and going home for the holidays, but for many in the LGBT community, they face living rough and finding alternative ways to spend Christmas.

LGBT flag

LGBT flag Photo: RNZ

RainbowYOUTH executive Director, Frances Arns said there's more than 40,000 people living in unsafe environments such as cars, motels or on the street.

"We know that around half of that population is under 25, and using American research, we estimate up to 40% of homeless rangatahi identify as queer and or gender diverse," she said.

Frances Arns said while its known homelessness among the LGBT is a huge issue, the rainbow community in general, is still heavily under researched.

"We are using American research a lot of the time. I understand Housing First and Auckland Council are initiating a project to collect a database on the homeless population in Auckland and Rainbow Youth is going to be supporting that, making sure queer and gender diverse youth is represented within that."

She said unfortunately lots of young people are still kicked out of their home when they come out, causing a breakdown in family relationships.

"Places like the City Mission over this time of year are so crucial, and particularly within our community, adoptive families. Those are formed by friends and other members in the community, and that's a huge source of support," she said.

Sam* who is transgender, has been squatting with her partner for about a year and spent over eight months on the Housing New Zealand waiting list.

They said despite having stable employment and a list of tenancy references they've been unable to find a house in Wellington.

"My partner and I are both trans and when we go to look at houses, people don't want to rent to us. We've been told the house has already been rented, but then later the house is still on the market and then the price has dropped because they can't find tenants," they said.

Sam said there would be no other reason why they wouldn't get the house other than they're trans and the possible stereotypical ideas landlords may have.

Sam said they're not alone and knows of a friend who was too scared to speak out about harassment once she was placed in accommodation, in fear of being homeless again.

Despite Sam's siblings being supportive, other members of the family were not, meaning Christmas until recently, was spent with friends.

"After I met my partner, because she has a really supportive [family], we go to her family house for Christmas," they said.

Frances Arns said it's a problem that's becoming more publicised but there still needs to be more awareness.

"You're not going to see them when you're walking down the main street of Wellington, Auckland or Christchurch. They're in temporary housing, staying with friends, couch hopping, in favours for cash type relationships, to name a few examples," she said.

She said this is why it's important people continue to keep the conversation going on the issue and support organisations who work with the homeless.