#LHR @ #PrideLondon 2017

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Last February, a volunteer at The London Housing Registry (LHR) approached me with an idea for a housing workshop specifically for LGBTQ2S+ clients. Just for those who don’t know, LHR regularly conducts housing workshop for individuals, mostly youth who are in housing crisis or who are at-risk of becoming homeless. The housing workshop tackles topics like the housing legislation that individuals and families can use to protect themselves. It also discuss how to do housing search and prep and also how to sustain or maintain those rental units. The participants normally will learn their responsibilities as tenants based on the City of London housing related by-laws and the RTA, which is the Residential Tenancies Act.

Around the same time, we came about the recent report on youth and homelessness and there are significant increases in youth homelessness involving LGBTQ2S+ youth. The most disturbing findings was LGBTQ2S+ youth experience homelessness just about when they left their home and that when they access the shelter during those times, they experienced discrimination and felt unsafe.

Somewhere in April, John Gaynes, the Housing Support Worker Volunteer who approached me in February, and I brainstormed with ideas and brought our plan to Shelley Milos, LHR’s Executive Director. She listened and gave us a go ahead to develop our plan. Most of our ideas are doable since we already have the Housing Workshop developed and all we have to do is to adapt the needs and the issues that are more important to the LGBTQ2S+ person.

The most important plan for our LGBTQ2S+ Project is to promote it and we figured, the pride week is the best time to let everyone knows in the community about our LGBTQ2S+ Housing Workshop. The following month, we started our GoFundMe campaign to finance our minimal cost which basically the cost of table display and materials during the London Pride weekend, July 28-30, 2017. We were surprised to received positive feedback and received 15 donations, and almost reached our $300 goals, (we raised $230).

Once we paid our #PrideLondon table, I felt like this project has reached its realization. It’s definitely coming and we better work on our materials. With the help of John, we created our Housing Workshop using Prezi and invited other agencies to be part of our focus group. The purpose of focus group is get feedback and we successfully received positive comments and suggestions that we implemented.

By mid-July, we are almost ready with all the materials and started our design. Our volunteers, Lauren, Sarah, Amy as well Jenny, Sahar, Patricia and staff, Shirin, assists us with our table display which consists of building a cardboard display that designed to looked like a house with roof attached on top. It was a fun day in the office with everyone helping out!

Finally the pride weekend came and on Day 1, John, Amy and myself met at the office to bring altogether our materials, thankfully we have an old shopping cart that our ex-volunteers donated to us and we are able to walk using this cart from our office to Victoria Park with no hassles. We found out that our table was on North side of the park, it was the second white tent after the main stage if you are coming from Dufferin. We didn’t have any problem with setting up and found other agencies and vendors very friendly and helpful. Sarah, another volunteer of us, joined us and the steady influx of people started. Most of people are inquiring about LHR. We patiently explained to some that we are not the RGI housing and that we are the agency that helps individual and families find housing in the private sector. Not surprisingly, we also received a lot of complaints about how long the waiting list for social housing and then we have to repeatedly explains that the waiting list is for HAC (Housing Access Centre) rental units and not LHR.

Day 2 is a long day for us, but John and I had so much fun with people come and go, they asked about LHR and why are we at the pride this year. We also received random donations from people who indicated that what we are doing is really needed and important for the LGBTQ2S+ community. We also got to know our neighbour tables and started networking with them. Lastly, we have landlords who signed our recruitment sheet, we explained to them the need for LGBTQ2S+ friendly landlords because it is still hard to find landlords who are proudly welcoming to the LGBTQ2S+ people.

On our final day, John’s partner Gary joined us and also Lauren. All were patiently waited for me to come back from the parade. I left them after we set-up in the morning before the parade starts, as I promised my choir group to joined them. FYI, I am a choir member of #PMCL, Pride Men’s Chorus London. When I returned most of our materials are gone as people are asking for materials to bring with them and we have so much feedback from people passing by and we also get more donations. Speaking of donation, I would like to thank all those people who donated to us, your generosity made our presence at the #PrideLondon possible.

All in all, we have a successful exposure to the LGBTQ2S+, people signed up for our two projects, our housing workshop and recruitment of LGBTQ2S+ friendly landlords. We also are able to connect with several community agencies that already have existing LGBTQ2S+ programs and services with the possibility of partnering with them.

We will continue to work hard and make our project reach its potential, see you next year at Pride London 2018! – Written by Florencio Viray, Volunteer Manager, London Housing Registry, 11 August 2017

Just a brief statistics on homelessness experience by LGBTQ2S+ Youth (Source: The Homeless Hub):

  • Approximately 25-40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ2S
  • LGBTQ2S youth are at a higher risk of homelessness due to homophobia and transphobia in the home and the shelter system
  • High proportion of queer and trans homeless youth feel safer on the streets than in shelters due to homophobic and transphobic violence that occurs in the shelter system
  • There is minimal support available and there are NO specialized housing initiatives that meet the needs of LGBTQ2S youth in Canada
  • Most homeless people indicated that they first experience homelessness whey they are in their young adult years and just left home
  • In 2016 The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness conducted a National Youth Homelessness Survey and the results showed that 29.5% of homeless Youth in Canada Identify as LGBTQ2S.

#LHR believes that the best method for avoiding homelessness is education, and our workshop provides tools that LGBTQ2S people can use if they decided to rent housing in the private sector.

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