Connected Voice is hosting a Doing Things Differently event on 2 December, which includes a speaker from the Albert Kennedy Trust talking about their innovative work in meeting the hidden needs of young LGBTQ homeless people, as demand for their services has soared during 2020.
To accompany this we tell the story of one of our service-users from the LGBTQ+ community and how we supported them (details have been changed to protect their anonymity).
Ghazal is a young woman in her early twenties who identifies as bisexual, has mixed white European and North African heritage and is from a Muslim background. She was living in a refuge after being assisted by the police to leave home due to threats of forced marriage. She experienced physical and sexual abuse as a child from family and family friends. She had a diagnosis of anxiety and depression. At the time of the referral to us she was self-harming to a significant degree and had suicidal thoughts. She was very isolated, having been befriended by another woman at the refuge who subsequently moved back to her home. Ghazal needed to find accommodation, but had 24/7 support at the refuge and was worried about how she would cope in her own tenancy
The Advocate provided a wide range of holistic support as follows.
- Attended a GP appointment with Ghazal to help her to get her views over to her GP; obtain supporting medical evidence to demonstrate her need for a tenancy; and discuss her concerns about her medication.
- Supported her to get her own appropriate tenancy so that she could move out of the refuge and near to her friend from the refuge, as she had no other friends or family support. This included:
- Assisting her to complete Council housing medical priority forms and advocate for her to be accepted as priority in the same area as her only friend.
- Requesting a review when her priority for housing was demoted due to her large rent arrears and provide explanatory paperwork. The review was further complicated by COVID lockdown and paperwork going missing.
- Communicating with refuge staff to ensure partnership approach to client’s housing issues where both skill sets improved Ghazal’s chances of positive outcome.
- Once she had been allocated her new tenancy, the Advocate:
- Helped her explain the build-up of rent arrears to the new social landlord
- Advised her about signing up with new GP
- Provided emotional and practical support
- Advocated for Ghazal with Council Housing Officer who recommended a service that could help her move into the new tenancy with a more hands-on approach and negotiated a grant for white goods and furniture.
- Helped her with benefits and debts. She had very low monthly income as her family had withheld her passport so she was unable to provide proof of ID for benefit purposes for long time. The Advocate helped to:
- Negotiate for some of her rent arrears to be written off and a manageable repayment schedule to repay the remaining debt.
- Organise for Universal Credit to be paid fortnightly so it was easier for her to budget.
- Signposted Ghazal for specialist support around her immigration status as a European citizen.
- Referred her to the Community Mental Health Team to get appropriate support with her severe mental health issues.
When Ghazal first contacted Connected Voice Advocacy she was very unsure of her abilities and completely overwhelmed with the prospect of moving out of the refuge. She needed a lot of support and reassurance. As time went on she became more able to self-advocate, particularly once she’d secured her new tenancy e.g. she arranged her own removals. Her underlying mental health issues are still with her but she was confident enough to access health services herself.
Advocacy support helped Ghazal achieve her stated wishes both through the Advocate’s direct action and, as Ghazal’s confidence improved, her own self-advocacy.