South Africa was one of the first countries in the world to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in 1996 and is still the only African nation to allow same-sex marriage. In South Africa, LGBTQ+ recreational programmes, information guides and open resources remain limited, however, and the implementation of interventions across urban and underserved communities show limited progress. Statistics for the number of queer homeless people are not readily available, but it is true that there is an overrepresentation of LGBTQ+ people in homeless populations. This is because of the fact that many families and communities simply do not accept people who identify as LGBTQ+, leading to oppression and often being kicked out of their homes and so creating a pathway to living on the street, particularly in resource scarce communities. It is estimated that Cape Town alone has 4,862 homeless individuals. Roughly 700 live in the CBD. Shelters are intended to be a place of support and refuge for people experiencing homelessness, however, for LGBTQ+ identifying people they can be a site of vulnerability and danger. Service providers are often under-prepared to work with LGBTQ+ homeless people. The lack of training and understanding from staff can result in staff being queerphobic, and/or not prioritising intervening in incidents of queerphobia. Transgender and gender-diverse people are often denied access to shelters due to their gender identity, particularly in single-gender shelters that lack policy regarding gender diversity. They have historically been excluded from single-gender shelters, which leaves them vulnerable to violence, murder, and other safety risks. In addition, LGBTQ+ homeless people have higher rates of substance use when compared to non-LGBTQ+ homeless people. Transgender homeless people have even higher substance use rates than Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (LGB) homeless people. The relationship between homelessness and mental illness is bi-directional; homelessness can directly undermine mental health, and mental illness can directly lead to becoming homeless. LGBTQ+ homeless populations engage in riskier behaviours and survival strategies while on the street when compared to their non-LGBTQ+ counterparts.
In 2011, a number of white gay men in Cape Town had partnered with the City of Cape Town in establishing the first queer shelter in South Africa. In 2014, it was officially registered by the Department of Social Development. This was the Western Cape’s first formal shelter attempt in providing short-term accommodation to the LGBTQ+ minority groups during crisis periods, and in response to LGBTQ+ homelessness and or LGBTQ+ persons who have been exposed to abuse, as existing shelters were not queer friendly. Ten years later, the Pride Shelter Trust still provides a short-term safe accommodation to people who have been evicted from their homes or have been regarded as social outcasts from their communities as a result of their sexual orientation and gender identity. The Pride Shelter Trust remains an active anchor for the LGBTQ+ community across provinces and is a dependable source of support; facilitating the recovery, support and reintegration of LGBTQ+ individuals into their respective societies. (Reintegration in this context refers to supporting people to have alternatives to living on the street or in shelters. Young people are taken through a process where supportive family members are identified and worked with to enable the young person to live with these family members, and also supported to find employment that would help them contribute to the household of a family member or to live independently.)
EMpower's first grant to the Pride Shelter will support 100 young people (aged 20-24; 20% female, 60% male, 20% gender non-binary;) to successfully reintegrate into society through building solid relationships and improving psychological health; increasing knowledge on where and how to access needed health services and how to keep themselves safe; and increasing understanding of how to access education that is non-discriminatory.
Primary Location: Cape Town
Funded Since: 2022
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