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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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Barak's Story

When I was 16, my family relocated to the UK to escape the racism we faced elsewhere in Europe. We came to London and settled there. My parents are religious people and I was brought up in a very strict household. As a son I was expected to help discipline my sisters, and was beaten when I refused to join my father in being violent to them.

I didn’t come out to my parents myself: my sister told them I was gay, and that’s when my real problems started. My parents would not accept my sexuality. They threatened and punished me. They told me I had to give up being who I was or they would make sure that I lived a worthless life. My father told me he would pray to God to make me mad, so that I would never be happy or have anything of my own.

I couldn’t stay at home. I tried to get help from social services and the police, but they spoke to my parents and believed the lies they told them. Finally my parents threatened to send me to Nigeria for a ‘cure’. I was so frightened I left home as soon as I could and found a place to crash for a short while. I got in touch with an LGBT youth group which referred me to a charity called ‘The Albert Kennedy Trust’.

AKT knew I was entitled to support from the start and even gave me some clothes and money for food, as I had nothing. Social services said they could help me only for a short time, as I needed to be on benefits for in the long term. However, the benefits office refused my claims as they said I hadn’t been in the UK long enough to qualify for help. Finally, after a long day being referred back and forth between social services and Connexions, I was sent to the housing office and given a place to stay.

But on my 18th birthday, social services withdrew all their support, including my rent. I was given a notice to move out, and social services told me to return home, leave college or find a job. I had a tough time. AKT found a lawyer who carried on arguing my case for social services to keep supporting me. They also gave me money for food and travel. AKT and some teachers from my college supported me so I could stay in education. AKT also found me a mentor, someone I could talk to and who helped me deal with everything that was going on.

My case is now closed with social services, since my benefits claim came through. My lawyer argues that I am entitled to support until I’m 21 but social services have refused to comment on that. I am still in touch with the AKT. I get advice and additional support from them, including exam fees. I am happy that I chose to stay in education as it means that I won’t be in a vulnerable situation in future. While I studied I also volunteered for AKT , helping out at Prides, with training and recruitment. I found it particularly satisfying to train housing officers on how they can address the homelessness which many LGBT young people face, based on my own experiences.

Even though this time was really hard for me, I carried on studying, partly out of a desire to prove my parents wrong. They told me I would not amount to anything, that I would be unhappy and deserved nothing out of life. But my predicted grades are As and A*s, and I have an offer from a top university to read Law next year. I am revising for my A-levels now. They’re in a couple of weeks.

AKT has helped me to apply for student finance as an independent student, so that I’m not reliant on my parents and can study without worrying, just like any other student. I can even talk to my mentor about relationships. AKT are like my gay parents. They understand me and give me solid advice.

In future I hope to practice Human Rights law so that I can help other people to exercise their right to a life without violence or fear. My big ambition is to work for the UN and join others in trying to establish universal global human rights. Even though this may seem like a dream, I have learned that it is worth struggling against the odds.

Click Here to read other stories of AKT's young people.

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