Thu. May 26th, 2022

There’s a place hidden in the city center that makes sure no young LGBTQ + person is alone on the streets of Manchester.

It’s a job act done by Britain’s leading LGBTQ + homeless charity since it was first founded in the city back in the ’80s; help young people who have been rejected to find safe housing.

But until now, it was tucked away on a single floor, and young people accessing the service had little more than a reception to go to.

It has now officially opened its new service center and youth space on Oak Street, in the heart of the Northern Quarter.

akts ​​new service center in the heart of Manchester

Over three floors, the new file base provides young LGBTQ + people with the help and support they need to find housing or emergency accommodation.

But it does more than that. It has desk, wifi, meeting rooms. The space and facilities for young people to help themselves; along with support from charitable causes.

It also has room to house the extra staff brought in to cope with the influx in numbers during the pandemic.

And perhaps most importantly, it will provide a common safe space.

If young LGBTQ + people in Manchester do not have a place to call home – here they have what feels like their own apartment.

The new space is designed to give young people the support they need to live independently

For Tim Sigsworth, CEO of Akt, things have come full circle.

Originally from Bury, he moved to the city of Manchester in the 80s to the university.

“I did not have a supportive mother when I was growing up,” he said. “For me, it was about getting away from home and finding a future for myself. I went to university as a way to escape,” he said.

It was during this time that he first came into contact with the act – then known as The Albert Kennedy Trust.

Tim Sigsworth, CEO of Akt

He saw charitable workers supporting and helping people around him, but at the time, he did not know how to get involved.

He trained as a social worker, and 20 years ago he switched to working for LGBTQ + charitable causes.

“It’s nice to get back to deeds and do what they did for my friends,” he said.

Tackling homelessness and hard sleep is a key priority for Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who cut the ribbon for the new center.

He admitted that when he first set out to fight homelessness in the city four years ago, he was unaware of ‘how many’ homeless there are young people and LGBTQ +.

Tim Sigsworth, Acting CEO, with Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham at the official opening of the new space

“It was a surprise for me. “I did not realize how many people were not supported,” he told the Manchester Evening News.

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The mayor said young people who are rejected by their families or find themselves in abusive situations are huge driving forces.

These questions were included in the act’s latest piece of research, the LGBTQ + Youth Homelessness Report, which Mr Burnham called ‘challenging reading’.

The report examined and interviewed LGBTQ + young people who had experienced homelessness in the UK within the last five years while between the ages of 16 and 25.

There is desk space for young people to find work and accommodation

Some of the findings include that 61 percent felt frightened or threatened by a family member before becoming homeless, and that one in six LGBT + young people was forced to have sexual acts with a family member or partner before becoming homeless.

Burnham also talked about the ‘influx’ of young people ending up on the streets as a result of the pandemic.

Lockdown saw a huge increase in young LGBTQ + people sleeping hard in Manchester – with the charity supporting five times the number of people in 2020 compared to 2019.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham with Hayley Speed, Acting Assistant Service Director

Factors that contributed to the increase included people who were in lockdown with unacceptable parents or were unable to continue sofa surfing.

The Manchester Act also provided one-on-one case support to 171 young people in 2020. That is an increase of 118 per cent from the previous year.

The mayor said the act is a ‘massive partner’ and that he appreciates the charity’s personal approach to tackling homelessness

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham

“If we are to get serious, we need to get better at all the personal support,” he said.

“What makes the difference is the personal support. The one-to-one, the advice, the guidance. It’s something we know tackles homelessness. It is more than brick and mortar. ”

“To give young people who have been wronged a sense of belonging and to be kind and considerate. You can not put a price on these things, ”he added.

Inside the new building

act was founded at a time when CEO Tim remembers being ‘petrified’ about leaving nightclubs in gay village for fear he would be beaten.

“No one was there to protect us back in the ’80s,” he said.

He said Manchester has always been a ‘special and spacious space’, but that things were particularly difficult in section 28.

“You could not be a passive member of society,” he said.

“Our identity was politicized, and therefore we had to be politicized.”

Cath Hall, who founded the Act in Manchester in 1989

This atmosphere meant that no LGBTQ + people could set up a charity as an act themselves.

“It would be seen as destroying young people,” he said.

It’s all thanks to one woman, Cath Hall, that the act exists today.

As an experienced caregiver, Cath becomes acutely aware of the rejection and exclusion of young LGBTQ + people from their family homes.

Having already founded the Manchester Parents Group, Cath created the deed in 1989.

The ground floor of the new file building

She was inspired by Albert Kennedy – a young man who tragically died after falling from the roof of a car park in Manchester, after experiencing homophobic abuse.

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As much as act is a safe place for young LGBTQ + people – there are no rainbows to be seen on the outside of the new center – and it sits separate from the Gay Village.

This is because charity deals with the most vulnerable of LGBTQ + people, people who may not be able to express themselves in public.

The official opening of the file’s new service space

“We can’t put a pride flag on our building,” Tim said.

“A young person may not be out and they would feel nervous to come. Even in 2021.”

To find out about the services available from Akt in Manchester and online, click here.

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