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AKT supports young LGBT 16-25 year olds who are made homeless or living in a hostile environment.

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AKT 20th Anniversary Special Interview!

Twenty years on, Cath Hall who founded the Albert Kennedy Trust, speaks to trustee Fraser Woodward about her memories of those times and what has been achieved since.

Tell me about the early days of AKT, how did it all start?

For a long time I’d been wanting to start something to help young gay people who were in care. I’d been turning it over in my mind, wondering how to do it and what would be the best solution. Young people who were in care were not having a good time. They were often facing hostility at school, in the streets and in their homes. There was no safe haven. It was very sad that there were so many gay people around but they were not visible as role models for young people.

Albert’s tragic death obviously provided you with another reason to start an organisation to help LGBT young people. Did you know Albert?

Yes, I knew Albert because my own son was gay and they both used to go to the same gay youth group. Albert was also the boyfriend of another boy I was fostering at the time. He was with Albert when he died and he came to me immediately after Albert’s death to tell me about it. It was a very hard time.

There was a lot of negative publicity in the press about Albert at the time of the inquest. AKT Launch It seemed really important to find a safe haven for young gay people to prevent anything like this happening again.

Together with a group of other like-minded volunteers you then formed AKT in Albert’s name. What was it like the early days?

There was an awful lot of negative publicity at the start of AKT. It was hard for people to understand the concept of gay people caring for other gay people and I was slated in the press. People just refused to understand what I was trying to do and some of the parents were objecting very strongly to having their children looked after by gay carers.

Today what AKT does is taken for granted by the majority. A good carer is a good carer regardless of sexuality. People didn’t understand that point in the early days. It was a struggle every step of the way. Grant-giving Trusts didn’t know if they would lose donors by being associated with us which is a terrible thing.

Things have now changed a lot of course. Whilst finding funds is still a challenge, big corporate names such as Barclays, Aviva and Credit Suisse are really keen to help out and donate funds to AKT. Tell me about meeting up with Albert’s mother and the unveiling of the plaque in memory of Albert in Manchester in August.

Cath Hall and Mary Booth I went to see Albert’s mother after he died and obviously she was very distressed and angry about what had happened to Albert. She didn’t feel able to be involved with the Trust in the early days. I hadn’t seen her for twenty years and it was nice to meet her again. She is now very keen to get involved with AKT’s work and is very proud of Albert for being gay and for what the Trust has achieved in his name.

What do you think AKT has achieved in the last 20 years and how would you like to see AKT develop in the future?

When we started we were unique. We were feeling our way all the time. Now the organisation has its feet on the ground, knows where it is going and is achieving tremendous things. I would never have thought that we would have our own social workers and all the other staff, carers and volunteers that AKT now has. In the early days when a young person came to us we had to come up with a solution to try to help that young person. Now the solutions are there ready for the young people when they contact us.

What hasn’t changed is that I always saw AKT as a family. Young people could come to us for help and we would always be there for them. Going forward, I hope that many of the young people AKT has helped will come back to the Trust as volunteers, mentors and carers themselves once they have got through their difficult years and “made it”. I would love to see the AKT family continuing and to see more of AKT’s current and past young people coming back to help pass on their experiences to those who need AKT’s help in the future.

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