Staying put, staying safe
Only a small proportion of older LGBT people live in specialist housing, sheltered housing or extra care schemes. Most stay put in their existing homes, and look to find the support, help and companionship they need in later life, without moving.
So what happens to older LGBT people who choose to stay where they are?
Although there are parallels with the wider population, older LGBT people will feel at greater risk of isolation, and fear not being able to access the appropriate support or care.
For many years, Stonewall Housing has urged housing providers to include sexuality and gender monitoring in their equalities monitoring, but this is unusual. As a result, there are few statistics about the proportion of LGBT residents living in social housing.
One result is that some providers – particularly in sheltered housing or care homes – will assume there are no LGBT residents. Older LGBT residents won’t feel safe about coming out. As a consequence, their needs are ignored.
A number of housing associations, including Hanover Housing, Anchor, London and Quadrant, Affinity Sutton and Housing 21 have established networks and support groups for their residents. Some include staff in these groups: others have separate networks for LGBT staff and straight allies. In 2015, HouseProud was launched: it’s a national forum of housing associations that share best practice in supporting LGBT residents and staff.
There are a number of publications for housing and support providers on meeting the needs of LGBT residents:
- Delivering housing services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers (Chartered Institute of Housing, 2011)
- Building a sense of community: Including older LGBT in the way we develop and deliver housing with care (Housing LIN, 2013)
- Working with older lesbian, gay and bisexual people: A guide for care and support services (Stonewall, 2011)
While these initiatives and reports provide resources for housing providers, older LGBT people continue to say that they lack confidence in housing care and support providers to meet their needs. Until there is good evidence that is widely available, it is going to take a long time to shift these fears and concerns.