- Many people in the LGBTQIA+ community feel much still needs to be done for total acceptance.
- The Pride Shelter Trust is taking in people who have been abused, violently attacked, or who feel mentally beaten.
- It has also called for volunteers and donations to upgrade its facility so that it can take in more people.
As members of the LGBTQIA+ community celebrate gains in human rights, many say a lot work still needs to be done regarding acceptance and the protection of people who still face abuse.
The Pride Shelter Trust in Cape Town has seen an influx of members of the LGBTQIA+ community since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many people sought refuge to escape daily violence and homophobia from people who they least expected it from – their community and family members.
Director Nicole Alexander told News24 the shelter accommodates people who were homeless or abused because of their identity.
“Some of them come to us with no plans for their life, because they’ve been so hurt by the attacks that they don’t feel that they are worthy of being loved,” she said.
More than 150 people are already on the shelter’s waiting list, but there are not enough beds.
The organisation works on supporting those who have been traumatised over the years, and some have even experienced hatred and shame from members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
“Every day is a struggle for them. Many have no option but to come to us for assistance and guidance because for many of the community the only other option to escape the raw reality is suicide,” she said.
With the help of the Department of Social Development, which sponsors bed space and other operating expenses, the shelter has managed to keep its doors open for 11 years.
Several psycho-social support experts are also available to help those in need get back on their feet.
The shelter charges a daily fee of R35, with a maximum stay of six months. During their stay, they are counselled and assisted with looking for jobs and housing, as well as taking care of their mental health.
“The reality is that members of the public struggle to accept queer people. It’s a known fact. It’s also one of the reasons… why many of them feel they don’t belong in this life anymore. And that is one of the reasons why we continue to do the great work we do at the shelter because at the end of the day we are all human, despite our sexual preferences,” Alexander said.
The Department of Social Development has partnered with non-profit organisations that focus on providing services to the LGBTQIA+ community by facilitating awareness programmes to the department’s social workers, as well as other funded partners.
The department’s Victim Empowerment Programme also partners with NGOs to render psycho-social services to members of the LGBTQIA+ community who have been victims of crime. The support provided include court order services and therapeutic support.
All 25 shelters funded by the department have been sensitised to provide safe accommodation for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, with dedicated beds at a shelter situated in the Cape Town metro.
Western Cape Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez has also helped developed LGBTQIA sensitising workshops for staff and community members. Additional funding has been allocated for victim support services in the LGBTQIA community and other victims of gender-based violence.
“The National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) states that members of the LGBTQIA+ community form part of the vulnerable group, that has been identified as a priority. The Western Cape government’s implementation plan has included LGBTQIA+ victims as a vulnerable group and is inclusive of the department’s budgeting for this vulnerable grouping,” she added.
The shelter always welcomes donations and, at the moment, needs to do a building upgrade.
Transgender Strandfontein resident Nicholas Dominic October said he felt a sense of “rage and pity for people who project their hatred and dislike of the LGBTQIA+ community”.
“Pushing your ideas and things onto others just because you don’t understand or don’t agree with their life choices is wrong because how does it affect you? It makes me so angry to think that people are so closed-minded that they can’t just leave things alone and let people be who they want to be. I think more people need to start realising that,” he said.
According to October, pride in who he is means visibility in every context, not just when it is convenient.
“It also means that I should be treated with the same respect, equality and dignity as any other person, and not treated a certain way based on who I am, or who I love and am attracted to. I found it hard to find someone to talk to when I was younger.”
‘Love is love, at the end of the day’
Luna August said to be “unapologetically yourself” was the key foundation to a happy life.
“The stereotypes we face as part of the queer community is something that must be changed. We cannot be subjected to the hate and insults we deal with on a daily basis. People don’t understand what our reality is like. They think we have it easy, but we don’t.”
Kylie Adonis said pride was a double-edged sword. It could either be one’s downfall, or it could be uplifting.
“It’s that step you’re afraid to take to see the outcome of, or the result. But that little bit of fear shows just how much it means to you to stand for what you believe in. Our community today is still hesitant on accepting changes, and while change can be scary, it’s knowing that you have the support of others not to endure it alone. Love is love, at the end of the day,” said Adonis.
Domonique Parker simply stated:
“There are many people out there who look to identify with labels and what goes with it. Every colour of the pride flag means something. I identify with the blue colour because I am a gay man, and people need to start accepting that even in the 21st century, we cannot still be looking down on others because of their sexuality,” Parker said.
Haydon Fillis said sometimes members of the LGBTQIA+ community were treated as if they were “contagious”.
“What hurts the most about people not accepting the LGBTQIA+ community is that we are treated like a sickness that spreads to the straight people, and then [they] blame us for everything [that’s] wrong in the world when there are far greater problems we have to face, like war, hunger, and human trafficking.”
Sebastian Andries said he failed to understand why, in a democratic country, people were still being attacked for the way they choose to live their lives.
“If people just took the time to understand that we are all just human beings wanting to express ourselves differently and live a life without judgement, then the world will be a better place. It took years for my family to accept that I am a gay man, and at some point in my life, they never spoke to me for years, but I needed to also understand where they [were] coming from. We are in a good space right now and that’s all that matters,” said Andries.
“Members of the queer community are the best kind of people you’ll ever be around, honey! We live a very colourful life, and we are loud and proud,” added Andries.
The Pride Shelter said people aged 18 and older were welcome. The organisation was seeking volunteers to urgently assist with upgrading the building.
The team has set a fundraising target of R80 000 to cover the costs of the upgrades needed at the shelter, which include electrical and plumbing maintenance.
“Pride Shelter would then be able to further offer a more safe and queer-friendly space to more LGBTQIA+ homeless individuals from across the African continent. The residents would be able to sleep warmly in their respective rooms with no stress of broken windows or leaking from the roof,” said Alexander.