Rose Holland Gilbert is a Re-Engagement and Recovery Worker at Causeway Irish Housing Association, which is one of Say It Loud Club’s partners for housing LGBTQ+ refugees. As part of our #noplacelikehome campaign, we asked her about the aims of her organisation, and about the reality of life as an LGBTQ+ refugee.
Hi Rose! In a sentence or two – what does your organisation aim to achieve?
In a nutshell, we seek to work with people to break cycles of homelessness and gain the skills to lead more stable and fulfilling lives. We do this by providing affordable accommodation to homeless people – particularly migrants – as well as offering additional support around life skills and wellness.
What challenges do you see for refugee communities in the UK with regards to housing?
For refugees, understanding and navigating British systems around housing, work and benefits can be a daunting challenge to say the least.
They are likely to have very little savings and lack a credit rating, which acts as a huge barrier in accessing housing. Plus, when it comes to public sector accommodation, refugees are often joining the end of very long waiting lists and therefore often face periods of homelessness.
Being part of communities and networks is incredibly helpful in finding sustainable accommodation and work, but often these intersecting groups arrive with very few connections, if at all. Without support networks, people have nowhere to turn in times of instability and crisis.
Why is this a particular issue for LGBTQ+ groups?
LGBTQ+ refugees are more likely to be socially isolated and lack a support network, since they are often ostracised from communities (including family) due to their sexuality and/or gender identity. This makes it harder to adjust to a new life – to find housing, work, friends, and other meaningful activities and relationships.
Working in this sector, I am also shocked by the lack of discourse around trauma amongst these groups and how the effects of trauma may continue affect one’s quality of life. The effects of trauma are proven to affect mental and physical health and lead to a higher likelihood of facing poor economic outcomes.
Why do you think these problems haven’t been resolved yet, and what would need to happen for them to be resolved?
I often refer to our country’s immigration/housing/benefit systems as being ‘booby-trapped’, not just in regard to refugees and asylum seekers, but also for other marginalised groups who may rely on public funds and other public services.
Having access to affordable, safe and comfortable housing is a key part of a good quality of life and without it, it can be difficult to find stability and fulfilment in other areas. Unfortunately, changing these systems relies on policy from the top and radical change feels even less likely considering the economic reality of 2020.
That being said, it is so important that non-profit organisations work ever-more innovatively and collaboratively to combat the complex causes of homelessness and offer people personalised and trauma-informed support that builds independence, resilience and community.
How do you think supporters of Say It Loud Club can help?
I think that by providing a space that focuses on community and care, and offering support and advice, Say It Loud Club must be very valuable in many people’s lives. I believe that it is important that charities and other not-for-profit organisations work together to pool resources and strengthen support networks so that we are better able to holistically support people.
What is your organisation doing to support LGBTQ+ refugees and other marginalised communities in the UK?
Causeway provides affordable housing to homeless people in conjunction with support from the Lifeskills and Wellness teams. This means that we are able to support people holistically to gain further independence and reduce the risk of future homelessness. Often, this involves referrals to other specialised organisations, such as Say It Loud Club.
Likewise, support workers are assigned to any tenant who falls into rent arrears so as to identify why the tenant is facing financial instability and work to remedy the situation before it becomes a crisis. As a queer woman with lived experience of trauma, I am also interested in created a trauma-informed policy for my organisation to underpin everything we do.
For more information and support, head to https://www.irishcauseway.org.uk/