Queering Shelter in LGBT History Month

By PJ Annand

The Queering Shelter project is running a series of LGBTQ+ creative workshops to explore the topic of queer shelter, offering hot vegan and vegetarian food, travel reimbursements and a £50 shopping voucher exhibition contributions. Find out more and reserve your place here.

As we celebrate LGBT History Month, it’s a good time to reflect on the progress made towards creating better society for those with marginalised gender and sexual identities. However, there’s still much to be done when it comes to ensuring that LGBTQ+ people have access to safe and supportive shelter.

A recent evidence review by McCarthy and Parr (2022) along with a previous systematic review by Ecker and colleagues (2019) show that people from LGBTQ+ communities can face significant challenges relating to shelter and safe housing. These including issues of discrimination, violence, and rejection from families and communities. Despite increased legal protections in some areas over the last decade, alongside considerable awareness-raising efforts and stigma-reduction campaigns, these issues persist. Such challenges highlight the need for a broader and more nuanced understanding of shelter that is inclusive of the needs and wishes of LGBTQ+ individuals.

Interrogating the limits of shelter

While traditional conceptions of shelter often focus on physical safety and housing, it is important to recognise that shelter can extend beyond these basic needs. It may include access to affirming healthcare, employment opportunities, and community support. Shelter is not necessarily just about providing a temporary solution to immediate needs, but possibly also about creating sustainable systems of support that help people thrive long-term.

The definition of shelter is not uniform, however, and different individuals and communities can sometimes have different ideas about what it entails. This diversity of perspectives raises important questions about how we measure and evaluate the effectiveness of shelter programs and services. Are we taking into account the diversity of needs and experiences that exist? How can we develop monitoring and evaluation frameworks that are sensitive to the specific concerns of, for example, LGBTQ+ communities, especially those at the intersection of other axes of marginalisation?

It is also important to consider the limits of current approaches to shelter and service provision. Many current initiatives are focused on individual-level interventions, such as providing emergency accommodation or crisis support services for LGBTQIA+ people experiencing homelessness. While these interventions are important, they do not address the underlying structural issues that contribute to LGBTQ+ housing insecurity and LGBTQ+ unsafety.

The Queering Shelter project

The Queering Shelter project, run by PJ Annand here at the University of Surrey, marks an important step towards developing a more inclusive conceptualisation of shelter within policy and practice. By centring the experiences of this community, the study challenges the notion of shelter as a one-size-fits-all solution.

Through a co-production approach and the use of Q-methodology, the Queering Shelter team – who all have lived experience related to the topic in some way – aim to deliver insights into the different shelter needs of LGBTQ+ people in England, and what it means to feel safe. Their work is a response to how LGBTQ+ people are often disproportionately affected by issues relating to shelter, yet their needs frequently go unaddressed.

The study is also exploring wider complexities around the concept of shelter and the reality of service provision for LGBTQ+ communities across the country.

  • What are the harms both within and outside of the home that shelter services must address?
  • Is shelter just about housing, and if not, what else does it encompass?
  • What factors contribute to feeling safe in our living situations?
  • How can we ensure that LGBTQ+ people have access to the resources they need to create safe and inclusive living environments?

These questions are particularly relevant during LGBT History Month, a time to reflect on the progress that has been made and the work that remains to be done in advancing the rights and well-being of LGBTQIA+ individuals. By interrogating our understanding of shelter and seeking to create more inclusive and responsive systems of support, we can continue to make strides towards a world in which everyone, regardless of their identity, has access to safe, secure, and affirming spaces.

Queering Shelter is led by Dr PJ Annand in Surrey’s Department of Sociology, with funding from Leverhulme Trust. It is a collaborative project working with LGBTQ+ activists, artists, academics, lived-experience experts and organisations. It will provide insights aimed at informing policy and provision around shelter and safety for LGBTQ+ communities in England.

Find out more about Queering Shelter and book your spot on the art workshops here.

Please note that articles published on this blog reflect the views of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Sociology.