Celebrating diversity

Celebrating diversity Image

Tim Mills, one of our tenant board members shares his feelings on how Ongo celebrates diversity: 

‘Have Council and Housing Association attitudes towards the LGBT communities changed over the years? It’s a very good question and one I hope to possibly address through my own personal experiences.

I have been a social housing tenant twice in my life. Once in the eighties, and now (for the last 11 years) with Ongo.  The first time was, by no means, a completely pleasant experience.

Back then, 1986 (ish), whilst it was legal to be gay, and socialites found it hip and trendy to have gay friends, the establishment could be, and were, openly homophobic. Section 28 was riding high and, along with other pernicious legislation, was being used to validate that homophobia.

I’d just left the Royal Navy, (they weren’t over keen on gay people either) and managed to find myself a small flat with Scunthorpe Borough Council (funnily enough in the same block I live in now). Everything was fine to start. The place was basic but comfortable and I kept myself to myself, in the main. Until my neighbour “sussed” that I am gay. Then the trouble started.  She complained at the smallest things, banging the communal door, leaving the lights on etc. Then complained about the male visitors I was getting. That’s when the letters from the Council started getting quite strong. Claiming that my “moral conduct” was disruptive to the neighbours. Using terms such as bizarre behaviour and lewd activities (I wouldn’t have minded so much if they had been correct). Nothing I could say or do would change their minds. The housing officer was visibly hostile, any attempts to interact with the Council were either ignored or I was just told to go away (you know the term). Eventually, I was evicted over 2 weeks rent arrears.

Then, 11 years ago, my partner and I found ourselves in need of social housing. We applied to our local housing association, then North Lincolnshire Homes and were duly interviewed. The lady was lovely. She completely accepted our situation as a couple and made sure that we were treated equally and fairly, (except they remembered the 2 weeks rent arrears – dangit!). We were quickly housed and accepted into the local community by other residents.

We don’t expect special treatment from Ongo (previously North Lincolnshire Homes). We just expect to be treated as equals. I can honestly say they do just that. I know and trust my HA has my back though when it comes to any prejudice shown towards us. Indeed, an incident last year was dealt with swiftly and positively. They simply won’t tolerate prejudice.

Ongo treats me exactly the same as it treats any other tenant, with dignity and respect. I really can’t ask much more than that.

Two totally different experiences. Has my housing association moved on? Hell yes! Not just with LGBT issues, but with the whole concept of diversity and equality.

I’m not too sure about a small number of other Housing Associations. Some seem to just play lip service and follow the letter of the law, to the minimum. Others truly embrace the diverse and vibrant nature of their tenants and are reaping the benefits of that.

The simple lesson here is to learn that you will never truly change unless you learn from your mistakes. My housing association learned well from its predecessor. Maybe others can also learn from those experiences.’