The place that makes sure no LGBTQ + young people are alone on the streets of Manchester

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There is a place tucked away in the city center that makes sure that no young LGBTQ + is alone on the streets of Manchester.

It’s a job akt, the UK’s leading LGBTQ + homeless charity, has been doing since its inception in the city in the 1980s; help young people who have been rejected find safe housing.

But, until now, it was tucked away on one floor, and the young people entering 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 North Quarter.



akt’s new service space in the heart of Manchester

Spanning three floors, the new akt base provides LGBTQ + youth with the help and support they need to find housing or emergency shelter.

But he does more than that. It has an office space, wifi, meeting rooms. Space and facilities for young people to help themselves; with the support of the association.

It also has room to house the additional staff brought in to deal with the influx of people during the pandemic.

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

While Manchester’s LGBTQ + youth don’t have a home, here they have what looks 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, the circle has come full circle.

Originally from Bury, he moved to the city of Manchester in the 1980s for college.

“I didn’t have a mother supporting me growing up,” he said. “For me, it was about getting out of my home and finding a future for myself. I went to college to run away,” he said.

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



Tim Sigsworth, CEO of akt

He saw association workers supporting and helping the people around him, but at the time he didn’t know how to get involved.

He trained as a social worker and 20 years ago decided to work for LGBTQ + charities.

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

Tackling homelessness and sleeping on the streets is a key priority for Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who has cut the ribbon for the new center.

He admitted that when he first embarked on the fight against homelessness in the city four years ago, he didn’t know “how many” of the homeless are young and LGBTQ +.



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

“It was a surprise to me. I didn’t realize how many people are not being taken care of,” he said, speaking to the Manchester Evening News.



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The mayor said that young people rejected by their families or finding themselves in situations of violence are huge determining factors.

These issues were included in akt’s latest research, the LGBTQ + report on youth homelessness, which Mr Burnham called “difficult reading.”

The report interviewed and interviewed LGBTQ + young people who had experienced homelessness in the UK in the past five years when they were between 16 and 25 years old.



There is an office space for young people to find work and accommodation

Some of the findings include that 61% felt scared or threatened by a family member before becoming homeless and that one in six LGBT + young people were forced to have sex with a family member or child. partner before becoming homeless.

Mr Burnham also referred to the “influx” of young people who find themselves on the streets as a result of the pandemic.

The lockdown has seen a huge increase in the number of LGBTQ + young people sleeping on the streets in Manchester – the akt charity supporting five times the number of people in 2020 compared to 2019.



Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham with Hayley Speed, AKT Deputy Director of Service

Factors contributing to the increase included people finding themselves locked in with unwilling parents or unable to continue to surf on the couch.

Manchester akt also provided individual support to 171 young people in 2020. This is an increase of 118% from the previous year.

The mayor said akt was a “massive partner” and appreciated the association’s personal approach to tackling homelessness



Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham

“If we are to get serious, we have to improve ourselves in supporting this whole person,” he said.

“What makes the difference is the personal support. One-on-one, counseling, mentoring. We know this is something that tackles homelessness. It’s more than bricks and mortar.

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



Inside the new building

akt was founded at a time when CEO Tim remembers being “petrified” about leaving gay village nightclubs for fear of being beaten.

“No one was there to protect us in the 1980s,” he said.

He said Manchester had always been a “special and inclusive space”, but things were particularly difficult in the days of Section 28.

“You cannot be a passive member of the community,” he said.

“Our identities were politicized so we had to be politicized.”



Cath Hall, who founded Akt in Manchester in 1989

This atmosphere meant that no LGBTQ + person could set up a charity like akt on their own.

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

It is thanks to a woman, Cath Hall, that akt exists today.

As an experienced host family, Cath is fully aware of the rejection and expulsion of LGBTQ + youth from their family home.

Having already founded the Manchester Parents Group – Cath created the akt in 1989.



The ground floor of the new akt building

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



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Akt is a safe space for LGBTQ + youth – there’s no rainbow to see outside of its new center – and it sits away from the gay village.

This is because the charity cares for the most vulnerable LGBTQ + people, people who may not be able to speak out publicly.



The official opening of akt’s new service area

“We cannot put a pride flag on our building,” said Tim.

“A youngster might not be out and he would feel nervous about coming. Even in 2021.”

To find out what services are available at akt in Manchester and online, click here.

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