October 30, 2015

Study Session Down & Out, Budapest – The Learning Process Continues


Our participants in IGLYO’s study session “DOWN & OUT: Social Exclusion of LGBTQ Young People and Homelessness” keep sharing their reflections and strategies to tackle the problem of LGBTQ youth homelessness. Some participants wrote on the experiences and the brainstorming activities occurred in the last two days of the study session and on the lectures given by Alex Abramovich from LGBTQ2S and Karina Chupina from the No Hate Speech Movement. Here are the reports of the 3rd and the 4th day of the study session, to see what happened in the first two days please click here.

Third Day, 28th October

Today we experienced a very exciting day: many were the opportunities to learn on the topic and at the same time we had  time for some fun in the city.

Alex Abramivich ‘Types of interventions to address homelessness’.

The first session was conducted by Alex Abramovich, who gave a lecture about LGBTQ2S homeless youth in Toronto. During the lecture, he exposed the main issues affecting LGBTQ+ homeless youth, and introduced some strategies of successful intervention to tackle the problem. One of the most significant priorities Abramovich underlined during his presentation, was the need of paying attention on prevention strategies. At present time instead, the current approach to tackle the problem is focused more on types of interventions occurring through funded emergency responses.

Abramovich highlighted the necessity of talking about this topic in order to make it visible. To this purpose, he created groups on social media for people to speak up and share their own experiences. He described the prevention strategies and plans of the Canadian government, concretely taking place in Alberta. One of the most interesting conclusions about this lecture was the change in the prevention concept he suggested. Perhaps, preventing homelessness might not always be possible since the significant amount of risk factors playing a role in the occurrence of this phenomenon. However, this pessimistic point of view might be related to our restricted understanding of prevention. Perhaps, we should try to prevent LGBTQ+ homeless youth to become chronically homeless instead of thinking to achieve such an ambitious goal such as entirely eradicating homelessness itself.

Abramovich recommended us some useful websites and toolkits we may find helpful for our own work such as HomelessHub, The Ali Forney Center, one of the few housings for homeless LGBT Youth in the USA and in the world, the True Colors Fund, founded By Cyndi Lauper and that creates inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ YOUTH experiencing homelessness.

Reflecting on expert input

During this session we participated in an interesting task: we had to point out the highlights about the sessions that were more significant for each of us and then explain how we would implement actions related to them in our context. Many great ideas came up: our shared motivation and passion definitely boosted this reflections process.

After the session, we had the opportunity to enjoy the wonders of Budapest walking around its beautiful streets and its enthralling essence. J

Fourth Day, 29th October

Thursday was a day centred on more practical aspects. During the first session, attendants could choose between two activities: reaching out strategies or advocacy.

Current skill building: Advocacy and Reaching out strategies

Those who took part in the Advocacy meeting, started the session with a game named ‘elevator speech,’ where the task was to persuade a politician and a potential donor to help our cause for LGBTQ youth homelessness. The tricky thing was that we had to do it in 30 seconds. This was really challenging but it underscored the importance of speaking clearly and concisely, and also that it takes a lot of practise. We learned from each other that a good pitch must have clarity, an emotional touch, mention of precise data, an approachable tone and focuses strictly on the topic, highlighting the most essential aspects.

Following this exercise, we discussed arguments against LGBTQI youth homelessness. We needed to think “from the other side” so that we could learn how to properly answer to these arguments. We came up with strategies for replies that focused on this issue as connected to other problems the opposition might be interested in. This strategy is useful in order to make the opposition conscious of the homeless situation, by highlighting the real effect of saving lives and asking clearly what they are actually doing for LGBTQI homeless youth. Plus this strategy aims at delivering the optimistic view that homeless young people are able to use tools if only they are given tools.

Eventually, we did an exercise where we had to simulate a press conference. The conference focused on the case of some Russian LGBTQI activists, who had opened a LGBTQI specific shelter and journalists were interviewing them about it. Half of the group played the role of the journalists, some had to act friendly but most of them had to show hostility to the project. The other half of the group played the role of the activists who had to defend their actions.

In reach and out strategy session we played ‘East European Tennis’, the name the instructor gave to the devil’s advocate technique: here we were challenged to implement out our critical ability, by both exercising and to accepting it. This was a dynamic and funny task that allowed us to strengthen our arguments and ideas, and to make constructive criticisms to our partners’ arguments.

Organisational barriers to access

In this session we were divided into groups where we had to analyse certain challenges we had to face in the mainstream of work within our organisations. The focus was in particular on the challenges regarding participation of LGBTQ+ youth with low socioeconomic status.

Action planning skills and counselling skills

The counselling group practiced a method called “Motivational Interviewing”, in which we learnt how to approach a person asking for help and support to our organisation. This strategy is based on psychological practices, and it tries to make the person conscious about his or her own personal issues. To this intent, the person who is going to take the role of the counsellor has to guide the user through certain questions until the person realises the need of change. It was a practical session: the instructor asked one of us to share one habit we wanted to quit, so that we may try to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the problem. All the other participants asked questions to know the nature of the habit and what underlines behind. It was an interesting session.

The planning skills group was challenged to form a line across the room in complete silence, according the criteria of eye colour. People with dark eyes formed one team, and people with ligh eyes another one. Each team had a paper; the task consisted in drawing a problem tree. They gave examples of which kind of problems might be addressed with this method. For example, Sashas’ team chose the issue of the HIV increase among trans women population in Eastern Europe. To deal with this issue, they had to identify causes and consequences of the problem and then transform them into solutions. It is a very useful strategy to identify in a visual way the issue we are working with. To guarantee the success of our strategy, it is useful to use the SMART rule (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound).

No Hate Speech Movement

The last session of the evening was conducted by Karina, who explained to us the main characteristics and goals of the No Hate Speech Movement. We talked about responses to hate speech in our countries and what the existing legislation is at present time on issues such as discrimination and harassment. However, we observed that even where the legislation is in place, it is not always enforced adequately to protect those who report hate speech.

At the end of the day, we watched videos about the No Hate Speech Movement, about a movement in Serbia against sexual violence using forum theatres in schools and a video about LGBTQI shelter in Warsaw.

Article written by Naomi Doevendans, Ingvild Oestboe, Pino Paank, Judith Velasco, Petra Tomašić and Silvia Moretti.

Photo courtesy of Silvia Moretti and Alex Abramovich.

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