THE FOUNDER FILES: AKT CHARITY
To celebrate Pride month and the work we’re doing with akt charity in June, we’re bending the rules a little with our Founder Files series. Instead of the charity’s founder, we spoke to akt’s Fundraising Manager, Charlotte Vale, to ask her what she thinks of Pride and how it feels to be changing lives.
What does Pride month mean to you?
Pride month is all about being proud of who you are and shouting that loudly – a time to celebrate but also a time to stand up for what’s right. There’s still a lot of work to be done sadly, so June remains a protest month for me.
What is your favourite memory of Pride?
My favourite Pride memories are all of Manchester Pride (which is in August). In recent years I’ve been able to support people affected by homelessness to get involved in the parade, which is extremely rewarding.
How did akt start?
Akt started in Manchester in 1989 and was founded by Cath Hall, an experienced foster carer who had become acutely aware of the rejection and ejection of young LGBTQ+ people from their family home, and others who were placed in unsupportive foster homes and often driven to running away following abuse. Cath sought to overcome the homophobia they faced in school and society, partly due to Clause 28 (a British law that prohibited the 'promotion of homosexuality' by local authorities) which had been enacted the year before.
She and a group of local activists organised safe places for young people to stay and provided support and eventually mentoring. From there, akt has grown to operate in four cities (London, Manchester, Newcastle and Bristol) and has developed a growing online digital service which spans the whole of the UK.
Why is it so important to support the homeless LGBTQ+ community?
Coming out, or being outed as LGBTQ+, can sadly lead to young people being made homeless – even in 2021. 24 per cent of homeless young people are LGBTQ+, which is significantly disproportionate. Support for LGBTQ+ people affected by homelessness is so important as not only are members of the community more likely to become homeless, but once homeless they are more likely to face violence, discrimination and sexual exploitation. This can all take a huge toll on someone’s physical and mental health, which can also extend the cycle of homelessness.
If you had the power to change one thing in the world, what would it be?
I would ensure a high quality and inclusive education was available for everyone. A lot of the problems we face today stem from the lack of knowledge and skills that are required to live in 2021. 70 per cent of young people recently surveyed by akt said they faced hostility when they came out because their families lacked knowledge of LGBTQ+ issues. That should be easier to fix.
What do you say to those who question why we even have Pride?
While young people are becoming homeless because they are LGBTQ+, we need Pride. It’s 2021, nobody should be judged because of how they identify or who they love.