AKT supports LGBTQ+ young people aged 16-25 in the UK who are facing or experiencing homelessness or living in a hostile environment. It supports young people into safe homes and employment, education or training, in a welcoming and open environment that celebrates LGBTQ+ identities.
Coming out, or being outed as LGBTQ+, can lead to young people being made homeless. 24% of homeless young people identify as LGBTQ+. Once homeless, LGBTQ+ young people are more likely to face violence and discrimination than young people who aren’t LGBTQ+. They’re also more likely to develop substance misuse issues and experience sexual exploitation. This can all take a huge toll on someone’s physical and mental health.
77% of the LGBTQ+ young people AKT work with believe coming out at home was the main factor in causing their homelessness and so it's vital that they are supported in an environment that is inclusive and celebrates their identities in order to improve their life outcomes.
In this week's Community Conversations we spoke to Charlie, Digital Officer at AKT, about the organisation is coping during the ongoing pandemic. Charlie:
The current situation has really affected us, because we saw our young people face to face and lots of the volunteering was in person and events based. We’ve had to pause our volunteering programme until it is safe to continue. This was a difficult position because we’re having lots of people reach out and offer help
We’ve moved online and are holding online consultations and we’ve created an online advice hub and turned it more into LGBTQ+ friendly visuals and digestible language. We received a message a few weeks ago from a young person who said that they approached AKT because they were being rejected help from local councils. We managed to support them into accommodation.
Having face to face interaction with young people is so important. We’ve got specific spaces for young people in our offices with libraries and film screenings etc. We’ve been organising online activities with young people to stay connected. Film screenings on Zoom and interactive activities on Instagram - like fitness and art classes. It's been great to work with LGBTQ+ artists on all these things, and we've hosted live Q&As on our Instagram, so people can send in live questions and seek help and support.
The support from the community has been amazing. We’ve seen loads of fun and innovative ideas for online fundraising, lots of quizzes and bake-offs. We’ve also had continued messages of support from people, who get in touch after donating and want to do more.Lots of volunteers are getting in touch to offer support and assistance, we’re trying to figure this out and how we can ensure maximum safety and assess appropriately but the response has been incredible. We normally have Event volunteers who raise awareness at different events - like Pride, where they can share information, and others who work in the office and those who help to run AKT Weekend - youth engagement festival.
As AKT started in Manchester, the Festival is such an important event for us. It’s the main way for us to connect with the community. Visibility from the parade is also really important and it’s a great opportunity to recruit volunteers. Youth Pride MCR last year was an amazing opportunity to directly work with the younger people in the community. This was really important for us to be able to engage with young people.
My advice to other organisations working through lockdown is to look at the innovative ways you can engage with people and stay as up to date as possible! Social media is important and a great way to stay connected to service users and supporters. Make sure you’re advertising your online services - we’re currently pushing our live chat right now and making sure everyone is aware of that service. We’ve had some really good engagement with the events that we’ve been doing and it’s clear that people know where we are and that we are still there for them!
As the situation evolves day to day, we’ll continue to put ourselves in our communities shoes, make sure information is readily available and clear and digestible and make sure people know that we’re there for them. Everyone reacts differently but it’s really important to stay as calm as possible.
Although we’re paused at the moment we’d still love to hear from anyone who'd like to volunteer with us in the future. If you'd like to get involved with AKT, fill out an expression of interest here
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