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This year marks 50 years of Pride, a chance to come together to celebrate each other and all that’s been achieved in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights over the last half a century.

Over the coming months, millions of us will be joining festivals and parades across the UK, and while Pride is in the headlines, it’s an important chance to remind people that the LGBTQ+ community still face daily challenges - especially young people.

At akt, we help support LGBTQ+ young people aged 16-25 facing homelessness or living in a hostile environment. Since 2018, we’ve partnered with M&S as one of their Sparks charities meaning every time customers shop and select us as their chosen charity, we receive a donation. 

This Pride month however, we’re doing things differently – M&S will be doubling donations to akt throughout June, giving us the chance to reach even more vulnerable LGBTQ+ young people. 

Coming out isn’t always easy or simple and some may face abuse or rejection from their families and within their communities. One in four young people who face homelessness identify as LGBTQ+ which is much higher than the general population. Those individuals are more likely to face violence and discrimination due to their sexuality and or gender identity, and in turn, are more likely to struggle with substance misuse or be sexually exploited. It’s a dangerous cycle we’re trying to stop.

One thing was clear to our founder Cath Hall when we launched back in 1989 in Manchester – akt needs to be there for all young LGBTQ+ people experiencing abuse or being ejected from their family homes simply for being who they are.

I joined akt in 2017 and have seen myself the difference that akt can make in the life of a young person. Each year we help nearly 1,000 young people from across the country into safe accommodation with both face-to-face and digital services. 

The invaluable support of M&S customers means we can help young people into safe homes, as well as offering employment support, education and training. 

People like Harriett, who was referred to akt via a youth group in Newcastle following transphobic abuse at home.  She was able to continue her education at a local college by living with a trained akt host. She was able to build confidence and  completed her degree with two distinctions, being accepted to study law and business at university. Harriet says “I can’t thank akt enough.  It’s really sad to say goodbye to my host and caseworker, but I’m excited too.” 

We want to be there immediately for LGBTQ+ young people who need us. So, we provide emergency accommodation to help get them into safe accommodation as soon as possible – our Purple Door accommodation service in London was the UK’s first emergency safe house for LGBTQ+ young people.

We also know that having more stable, long-term accommodation is crucial, somewhere that offers the safety and space needed for each individual to rebuild their lives. We have just launched a report on alerting the housing sector to the specific needs of young LGBTQ+ people (find out more here). We also work with a variety of housing partners to provide safe accommodation until a longer-term solution can be found.  

Having a safe and welcoming place to call home is just the first step however. Over half (59%) of LGBTQ+ young people have faced some form of discrimination or harassment while accessing local services and just 13% feel supported by their own parents or step-parents while homeless.

We offer one-to-one support, alongside training and employment opportunities to help young people work towards their future. From life skills training, to events and peer support networks we want to support young people to live independently.

For those who have been homeless, it can be distressing and isolating, and if circumstances change, it can all too easily happen again. We want to create a community so no one feels alone – akt becomes an extended family for many young people.

Our Youth Engagement Programme helps each individual to build social networks and meet other LGBTQ+ young people with similar experiences. We host a range of activities, workshops, our annual Youth Conference and social inclusion events where everyone is invited and welcome.

We believe no young person should have to choose between a safe home and being who they are. 

Join us in helping to make sure that happens by selecting akt as your chosen charity in the Sparks app or online – M&S will double their donation to akt every time you shop during June. Let’s make sure there is another reason to celebrate this Pride.