Queering Shelter

An LGBTQ+ led project on shelter & (un)safety

Understanding shelter from a different point of view

From the perspective of LGBTQ+ people with lived experience of shelter(lessness) and unsafety:- What does it mean to have (or not have) shelter? What does shelter actually look like?
- Is shelter enough or do we need more than just shelter?
- How can services aiming to provide shelter meet our needs well?
These are the big questions we want to answer.

Why this, why now?

All this talk of shelter during the pandemic ('shelter at home', 'shelter in place') got us to thinking: What actually is shelter? What does it look like? What does it mean to have shelter, or to need it? What are the violences and other harms that we need shelter from? Neither research nor policy has been able to fully answer these questions about shelter. If we don't understand it, how well can we really be providing it?The aim of this study is to try and get to the bottom of these questions about shelter. It will do that by looking at these questions from the perspectives of LGBTQ+ people, who are overwhelmingly - and sometimes disproportionately - affected by various forms of shelterless-ness and unsafety. It follows the queer theory principle that exploring marginal rather than only mainstream perspectives can yield new knowledge via new ways of knowing.We hope this work will help inform and improve services seeking to provide shelter and support to those who need it, by developing a common understanding of what shelter actually is, what it should be, and what its limits are.As LGBTQ+ experiences of shelterless-ness are often invisibilised, and thus our needs often go unmet, we also intend for this work to amplify the voices and messages of LGBTQ+ survivors and improve understanding within policy and practice of LGBTQ+ survivors' needs.

Shelter and (un)safety

There are lots of ways of defining shelter and safety/unsafety. At this early stage of the Queering Shelter project, we're trying to be as broad as possible in our understanding of these terms. The reason is that narrow definitions risk accidentally excluding people with the types of relevant lived experience that might not usually be associated with the topic. We're hoping though that more well-developed, inclusive definitions of shelter and safety/unsafety will develop over the course of the project.In the meantime, we're tentatively understanding shelter as the kind of virtual/physical space or function that can help shield from physical or psychological harm. (And unsafety then as not having that shielding space or function in situations of physical or psychological harm.) So that includes for example, spaces and support for people who have experienced things like homelessness, domestic abuse and other types of direct, structural and cultural unsafety.- Direct unsafety: e.g from domestic or family abuse, hate crime, sexual assault
- Structural unsafety: e.g. from unfit policies and discrimination that lead to basic human needs being undermined (for example homelessness, deteriorating health)
- Cultural unsafety: e.g. from heteropatriarchy and other intersecting oppressions such as racism, ableism and classism, used to justify violence, inequality and oppression.
With this in mind, the Queering Shelter project will explore what it means to have shelter from different forms of unsafety across this spectrum, especially for LGBTQ+ people who are often disproportionately affected.


This Leverhulme-funded study is being led in collaboration with experts in policy, research and creative industries.PJ Annand (Lead): I am a queer, feminist survivor-researcher working on health and social inequalities within the disciplines of sociology, social psychology, and health sciences. My academic background is in gender and LGBTQIA+ rights, violence and abuse, labour, housing, and (mental/) health. I also have 10 years’ third sector experience in research and campaigns with a focus on child rights, sexual and reproductive rights, mental health and social justice. I am passionate about making sure community-embedded, survivor-led research is supported, funded and elevated within academia and policy moving forward. Nothing about us without us.Shreya Ila Anasuya (Working Group): I am a writer from Calcutta, India. I write fiction across genres, including and especially fantasy and horror. My work explores – among other things – history, the supernatural, gender, the body, grief, liminal spaces, music and the senses, as well as cultural memory. I am currently a PhD candidate in Cultural History and Creative Writing at King's College London. In other avatars and lives, I have worked as a researcher, editor, journalist, teacher, and performance artist. I am bonded, in this life and beyond, to my baby – a calico cat named Begum.Shakthi Nataraj (Working Group & Impact Co-Lead): I am a Lecturer of Sociology, with a focus on Gender and Decolonisation, at Lancaster University. I am also a linguistic anthropologist, illustrator and creative writer. I have authored blog posts for the queer website Orinam, translated short stories and poems by noted transgender rights activists, and written a creative non-fiction piece reflecting on the paradoxes of doing ethnography amongst queers “back home”. I have straddled the worlds of LGBTQ activism and academia, working on gender and sexuality training, educational materials, press releases and policy briefs alongside academic publications.River Újhadbor (Working Group): I am a qualitative health researcher, theatre director, facilitator and an aspiring witch. My practice is process-driven and draws on youth work, theatre of the oppressed methodology, embodied story telling, participatory action research, critical pedagogy and autonomous forms of organising. I have spent much of the past two decades working within my own communities striving to nurture joy, liberation and transformatory healing. Current research includes the investigating health-enabling environments for young trans people and the health consequences of social stigma among those experiencing homelessness.Lisa Ward (Working Group): I am a survivor researcher and former rape crisis centre CEO. I use a feminist framework to look at issues of violence/abuse and the duality of roles that people hold. I aim to bring an intersectional lens to our understanding of abuse(s) and explore how ‘lived experience’ can inform the delivery of services and research. I am also a consultant, working with organisations to improve their ‘lived experience’ engagement. I have worked in the sexual violence and mental health sectors for the past decade and am a violence against women and girl's activist. I am passionate about ensuring work is truly co-produced, reducing hierarchies of power.Yanni Wong (Working Group): I am a qualitative, feminist researcher working on genders, sexualities and LGBT+ dance subcultures within the fields of sociology of dance and theories of bodies. My academic background is in gender, queer theory, feminist ethic of care and inequalities in the Global South. In my nine years of research experience, I have focused on carework and social justice in the Global South, LGBT+ discrimination in competitive sports, 'modern slavery' and digital inclusivity in AI. I am committed to research which works with communities to identify issues and potential proposals for social change.An advisory group with stakeholders from the academic, third and policy sectors is also being developed. If you are interested in joining, let us know.

Take part

Details on how to take part in this study will follow soon.


Get in touch using the email button below if you are a community expert, researcher, artist or storyteller interested in consulting on this project.Or if you just want to say hello and be kept up to date, you can email with the subject 'QS Mailing List'.Look forward to hearing from you.

Department of Sociology, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XHThis study was given a Favourable Ethical Opinion by the University of Surrey Ethics and Governance Office – reference FASS 21-22 124 EGA. For further information, please email PJ Annand.

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