Homelessness in the trans community in Wales

By Edith England, Cardiff University / Shelter Cymru


Trans people have a gender that is different to the sex they were assigned at birth.

As well as trans women and trans men, this can include those who do not identify as only male or female, as both, or neither.

Some trans people seek medical help to transition to a different gender, and some apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate which allows them to be legally recognised in their affirmed gender.

However, there are legal and social barriers to both and those who have not medically or legally transitioned are still part of the trans community. Trans people experience considerable discrimination and stigma within society, with half of Welsh trans people having experienced hate crime in the last 12 months.

A quarter of trans people have experienced homelessness. Trans people are especially likely to have had things happen to them which put them at risk of homelessness.

They are more likely to have experienced domestic abuse and to have poor relationships with their family.

They are also especially likely to be vulnerable in other ways, with high rates of mental ill-health Young trans people are believed to be especially at risk. Trans people also often face discrimination and other barriers to obtaining secure accommodation.

The homelessness system may not work well for trans people.

Bullying can be a big problem in hostels, and trans people are especially at risk. Whilst trans people should be offered the appropriate facilities for their gender, this does not always happen.

Sometimes it can be very hard for a trans person to tell frontline staff or hostel staff that they are trans, because they may be worried about the repercussions. As a result, trans people may stay out on the streets, or in unsafe environments, to avoid them.

Some organisations run hostels specifically for LGBT youth, for instance the Albert Kennedy Trust- but no such hostels exist in Wales. There is a particular shortage of help for trans people over 25.

The Housing (Wales) Act of 2014 tried to make things better for trans people. It said that frontline housing staff should receive training in order to understand the particular needs of trans people.

It also said that everyone should get more help to keep their homes and to find a new home if they had lost theirs. Local authorities can do much more to help people to avoid homelessness than before. Wales is the only country in the UK to include a requirement to be aware of trans people’s needs in its homelessness legislation.

Shelter Cymru, in conjunction with Cardiff University and supported by Stonewall Cymru, is trying to find out if the new Act has made things better for trans people.

We are currently asking trans people in Wales, who have been homeless in the last three years, about their experiences. We are also talking to service providers and other key stakeholders, to understand what challenges they are facing in meeting trans peoples needs.

We want to understand where the system is failing and needs to do better, but also what it is getting right, and whether the new Act has made a difference. We are also looking at models that do work.

We want to find out:

  • What do trans people want from homelessness services?
  • What can homelessness services do differently?
  • What do homelessness services need in order to better meet the needs of trans people?

What can you do?

If you are trans, aged over 18, and have been homeless in Wales within the last three years, we’d love to talk to you! Please email [email protected] for more information.