Manchester’s first accommodation service catered specifically for homeless people who identify as LGBT+ opened earlier this week.
The Riverside Housing project in the city centre consists of six modern flats providing residents with a safe space ‘free from discrimination’ alongside additional support services.
The project has been supported by Mayor Andy Burnham’s A Bed Every Night (ABEN) initiative, which has a target of providing short-term accommodation for every rough sleeper in the city-region.
One of the first residents to move into the tailored properties was 61-year-old Elaine, who had transferred from Riverside’s emergency hotel provision in Gorton.
“Living here is like being with family so I don’t feel like I’m on the outside,” Elaine said.
“The staff have experience with LGBT+ people and can provide the help needed. It’s nice to be included and I’m pleased that there are staff here to help me – it is all quite overwhelming.”
Having lived abroad for 20 years, Elaine moved back to the UK in October. She said she felt very lucky to be the first to move into the new service.
“I lived in Spain for 20 years and ended up living on the streets in doorways for a few months and received a lot of abuse so I didn’t want to go through that again,” Elaine explains.
“It was unnerving, you can’t relax or sleep in case you get attacked, stabbed or abused so you don’t know whether you will wake up and be OK.
“I’m over the moon that everything is falling into place and I can start to live a normal life. I’m very fortunate to be able to spend Christmas in my new home and it is a fresh start to the new year.”
Since opening this week, all of the six housing units have already been filled by residents moving in over the next few weeks.
The project is the latest in developments by Riverside, who have previously signed up to the HouseProud Pledge scheme that aims to support housing companies in providing safe spaces for LGBT+ people.
“Many people identifying as LGBT+ can end up homeless due to a variety of reasons such as losing their job or a family breakdown after coming out so they have little or no support from their relatives,” Eleanor Watts, Riverside’s Area Manager, said.
“It can also be difficult for LGBT+ people to open up to others especially those in authority so this supported service will help break down these barriers.
“Our support workers focus on supporting the person’s needs to help them move on in life and live independently in their own home.”
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham added that the tailored service would play an important part in improving the lives of many LGBT+ people.
“It is vital that we provide accommodation and support that best enables people to get off the streets,” Mr Burnham said.
“This dedicated service for LGBT+ people is another big step towards making sure everyone receives the help, the safety, and the security that can really make a difference to their lives.”
Cllr Luthfur Rahman, Manchester council’s lead member for homelessness, added: “LGBT+ people are presented with challenges beyond those affecting others vulnerable to homelessness.
“Discrimination remains an intolerable part of our society and I think it’s crucial that we can provide the tailored support people need to feel safe and secure if they need to access homeless accommodation.”