REN x akt, the LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity

REN x akt, the LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity

To Celebrate Pride Month 2022, REN Clean Skincare is supporting akt, a UK-based nonprofit organisation dedicated to helping build safe homes and better futures for homeless LGBTQ+ young people aged 16-25.

24% of homeless young people identify as LGBTQ+, with 77% of the LGBTQ+ youths akt work with believing that coming out at home was the main factor in causing their homelessness. Everyone on our shared planet has the right to feel safe in their space, outdoors and in, which is why we will assist their Youth Engagement programme to host life skill workshops for young people, while also donating products to amenities packages distributed through their service centres in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Bristol.

To find out more, we went to interview Carrie Reiners, Deputy CEO at akt in their north London HQ to ask her a few questions about this incredible charity.

Tell us what akt stands for and what inspired the need?

akt was founded in 1989 in Manchester following the death of a young man named Albert Kennedy. Our founder, Cath Hall, was a straight ally and foster carer who saw that many young LGBTQ+ people were being failed by the care system. She and a group of local activists founded the charity to ensure young LGBTQ people had access to safe accommodation. The charity has since expanded into London, Newcastle, and Bristol. We also offer a fully digital service.

How does the akt system work, and what support is offered?

At akt, young LGBTQ+ people (aged 16-25) who are facing homelessness or living in a hostile environment can get in touch with us directly via our website, live chat, or phone. We offer access to safe accommodation, support through a holistic approach which focuses mental health support, access to training and independence to ensure young people build resilience and independence.

Why does akt focus on homelessness?

For some young people, coming out can be a dangerous situation and they may need to flee home or may even be forced to leave. We know that 24% of all young people who are homeless or living in a hostile situation identify as LGBTQ+ which is much higher than the general population. It is important for there to be a specialty service to ensure that the experiences of LGBTQ+ people are understood, and young people feel safe in an environment which celebrates all LGBTQ+ identities.

How many LQBTQ+ young people has akt helped to date?

Since our founding in 1989, akt has been able to provide 250,000 nights off the street and supported over 50,000 LGBTQ+ young people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

What is the one most important thing supporters can do to support the cause?

It is important that supporters continue to support our work so that no young LGBTQ+ person has to choose between a safe home and being who they are.

What do you think the ‘purple door’ symbolises to LQBTQ+ young people?

Purple Door was the first emergency safe house specifically founded for LGBTQ+ people in the UK and was opened in 2012. It represents a safe place for young people to heal and explore their own identities. It is often the first time that young people can truly be themselves and build a community of other LGBTQ+ people.

What are the current challenges that akt is facing?

Since the start of the pandemic, akt has seen a 71% increase in footfall to our service across the country. We have seen increased levels of abuse and isolation in many of our young people. There has also been an increase in the number of young people turning to rough sleeping and a rise in the number of young people under the age of 18. The current cost of living crisis is also informing our work and how we adapt our service in the near future.

How does akt use activism as a vehicle for change?

Activism has been at the heart of our work since its founding. We use our social media to raise awareness of the issues facing our young people. We also use the voice of young people to effect change and ensure that their experiences are reflected throughout our policy and campaigns work with government. Our supporters can also follow and share our work within their own networks and social media.

How can people seek help from akt?

akt is a self-referral service. Young people can contact us directly via our website, live chat function or phone. We will ensure that they are provided with a caseworker to determine their needs and begin a plan for safe accommodation and independence. There are many steps along the way and each plan is bespoke to the needs of the young person.

What is the first step they can take?

The first step is often an emergency support pack which will include emergency accommodation, top up credit for data (a phone if necessary) and funding for food and other essentials. When young people leave our care, we can provide a Rainbow Starter Pack which most often provides a deposit and the first month's rent to ensure a firm base in the move to independence.

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How can people support and donate today, and throughout the year? 

Please support our summer appeal, Queer to Stay, by using the special QR code for REN Skincare. You can also visit the website to learn more and do follow us on Instagram Facebook Twitter and YouTube.