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Thursday 10 November 2016

Ara Taiohi Submission to the Homelessness Inquiry

Posted in: Our Communities
By - 5th September 2016

Submission to the Homelessness Inquiry, September 5, 2016

Kassie Hartendorp, Anya Satyanand and Sandra Dickson
Anya Satyanand, Executive Officer of Ara Taiohi

Ma te rongo ka mohio 

Ma te mohio ka marama

Ma te marama ka matau 

Ma te matau ka ora

Tihei mauriora.
E nga rangatira o nga hau e wha, tena koutou koutou.
Ehara ahau i te tangata mohio ki te korero otira, e tika ana kia mihi atu kia mihi mai.
Ka nui te aroha mo o koutou manawanui ki te huihui mai hapai I nga kaupapa e pa ana ki tenei hui.
No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, nga mihi nui ki a koutou katoa.

Namaste, talofa lava, fakalofa lahi atu, kia ora and good morning to all of you. My name is Anya Satyanand

I’m speaking on behalf of Ara Taiohi, the peak body for youth development in Aotearoa New Zealand. Ara Taiohi and Evolve Youth Health Services are sharing this submission time so we can highlight homelessness issues for sex, sexuality and gender diverse young people from both a national and a service level perspective. Sandra Dickson and Kassie Hartendorp will also speak on behalf of Ara Taiohi and Evolve Youth Health Services. Together our submission will weave together youth development evidence and story to shine a light on a hard to see demographic within youth in Aotearoa who are massively impacted upon by homelessness.

Ara Taiohi is an umbrella organisation with nearly 900 members who represent the breadth and depth of a vibrant youth development sector in Aotearoa. Our membership spans national organisations, clinicians, holiday programmes, youth workers, schools and culturally specific youth groups. We were set up to support people who work with young people to be more connected, effective and accountable. Our name was gifted to us by our kaumatua when we formed out of the National Youth Worker’s Network Aotearoa, and New Zealand Aotearoa Adolescent Health and Development. Ara means pathway to or from- a word signifying progress and inclusion. Ara also means the guiding edge in a piece of weaving which as the korowai or rourou is formed, gives shape, beauty and function to the final piece. Taiohi is the literal word for young people- our name therefore means pathway to and from young people, and we use young people to mean those aged between 12 and 25. Our mandate and kaupapa as a mainstream, national organisation is about creating an Aotearoa where all our young people are supported to thrive.

This submission will however focus on one particular group of young people who face really complex challenges in terms of homelessness - Rainbow young people. The growing group of young people who identify under the sex, sexuality and gender diversity umbrellas – rainbow young people- often don’t get seen or taken account of because our systems for counting aren’t built for them- and we’re bringing this demographic to the attention of the inquiry because we know that they face massive structural challenges in terms of their positive development. Homelessness is one important component of this.

In 2012 Ara Taiohi undertook Te Hautaki- a hikoi which involved 4,600km of travel, eleven hui and more than 250 people across the country. People working with young people across the country consistently identified the ways in which Rainbow young people struggle with discrimination, stigma and exclusion. Practitioners were hungry for professional learning around how to provide culturally competent support for rainbow populations. Analysis of this feedback led to Ara Taiohi incorporating support for Rainbow young people into all our work plans, national events and communications.

Sandra Dickson, Rainbow Competency Framework Co-ordinator

Kia ora tatou, I’m Sandra Dickson and I work for Ara Taiohi, to support mainstream youth environments to be places where Rainbow young people are not only safe, but are celebrated as the taonga they are.

I want to start briefly, by sharing something from my own experience. Because sadly, homelessness for sex, sexuality and gender diverse young people is not a new thing. Rejection from family when young people first come out or start to think about transitioning is sadly far too normal, and it has been for a long time.

The first time I offered a young person my sofa was 25 years ago. She was 14, and knew she was lesbian. Her father, who worked in mental health, was threatening to have her sectioned if she would not try and be straight. She was terrified he would do this, and when the fighting at home got too bad, she would come to my flat and stay for a few days. This went on for a couple of years, until she was old enough to leave home and go flatting. I have many other similar stories I could share from my own experience, because Rainbow homelessness is hidden, held inside communities where we look after each other because the systems don’t work for us.

Back in 2008, the Human Rights Commission Transgender Inquiry had this to say about housing:

“The Inquiry heard that finding a home was not always easy for trans people. Those who transitioned as young adults were usually dependent on shared rental accomodation, particularly in flatting situations. Social marginalisation and negative attitudes towards transpeople affects access to shared accomodation. A trans woman told of being offered a room in a flat but was later turned away when the other tenants realised she was trans. One trans man described the stress of boarding in a large house where flatmates continually harassed him by referring to him as "she"."

So Rainbow homelessness and challenges with finding safe housing is not a new thing, because of the discrimination, stigma and exclusion Rainbow people experience. But it’s a very hidden thing, because we do not collect data on housing, particularly not for homeless young people, and certainly not for homeless Rainbow young people.

Back in 2014 Ara Taiohi began administering the Queer/Trans Grants Programme – the first of its kind in Aotearoa - to support groups and organisations working with Rainbow young people. We received an overwhelming response from the Rainbow support sector – over two years we engaged with 57 groups working to support Rainbow young people around the country.

57 groups supporting Rainbow young people, as our communities scramble to create safer environments for young people coming out and transitioning earlier than ever before, in greater numbers than ever before.

We were able to fund 48 organisations. Groups who in the main are volunteer run, by Rainbow young people, doing their bit to create environments where sex, sexuality and gender diversity are celebrated. They are also managing some pretty complex dynamics as they sweep up after systems which do not treat Rainbow young people as the taonga they are.

In 2015, we surveyed these Queer/Trans Grants recipients, and held three forums around the country. The survey and forums identified many things – most relevant for today is that housing and homelessness are pressing issues for Rainbow young people.

59% of Rainbow support organisations who answered our survey had helped Rainbow young people find emergency accommodation and just over half had had a staff member offer personal housing to homeless young people because there was nowhere else safe for Rainbow young people to go. Respondents identified that more marginalized Rainbow young people are more likely to be homeless, confirming the need for kaupapa Maori and other culturally appropriate support and resources in our communities.

Just think about that for a moment – half of our volunteer driven support groups around the country working with Rainbow young people have had to take someone home because there was nowhere safe for them to go.

There isn’t enough emergency housing for anyone – that’s pretty clear. But for Rainbow young people, who might need to leave home because they are not being treated well because of their sexuality or gender identity, emergency housing is even less appropriate. Emergency housing is often run by faith based groups who traditionally have had value clashes with sexuality and/or gender diverse people and gender based emergency housing is not welcoming or safe for trans and gender diverse young people either. There are no services anywhere in New Zealand specifically for Rainbow people of any age who need to leave violent relationships or families.

Our emergency housing cannot manage the complexities of Rainbow young people’s lives at the moment, and because we are not collecting any data nationally Rainbow homelessness remains hidden.

Anecdotally Rainbow communities know, but the Ara Taiohi Snapshot data – that half of our support groups working with Rainbow young people around the country have had to house a Rainbow young person themselves, is the first concrete data we have.
Finding a renting situation when you are not straight or don’t conform to gender norms is also tougher.

I have been turned away from rental situations when I arrived with a same-sex partner, and I’m white. For Rainbow young people who are Maori, Pacifica, Asian or other ethnicities visibly not white, finding rental accommodation is even tougher because of racism. The fact is, Rainbow young people, particularly those of colour, are not the first pick for people renting out flats.

I’m going to hand over now to Kassie Hartendorp, to talk about some of the things that Evolve Youth Health Service is seeing in terms of Rainbow young people they engage with. Kia ora tatou.

- 5th September 2016

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