Swindon celebrates International Coming Out Day with newly-launched LGBTQ+ youth group

International Coming Out Day (11 October) was celebrated in Swindon this week with the launch of Out of the Can+, a LGBTQ+ action youth group at Stonewater’s new Swindon Community Hub on Bath Road. International Coming Out Day aims to raise awareness for the LGBTQ community and the civil rights movement.

Out of the Can+ launch.JPG

Formerly named Out of the Can, the youth group has been running since 2004 and offers support and friendship to local young people aged from 13 to 19 years who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Trans (LGBT+) or are questioning sexuality or gender identity, or are just looking to make like-minded friends. The group meets weekly in Swindon and is free to attend.

Out of the Can+ will benefit from practical support and advice from leading social and supported housing provider Stonewater. Stonewater’s partnership with Out of the Can+ and The Diversity Trust will provide monthly social education activities and support from its new Community Hub next to the Swindon Foyer. The service will also act as a networking base, with staff available to advise on other services that could help the group.

Out of the Can+ will employ one member of staff and provide placements for volunteers looking to gain work experience. Four Stonewater employees from its seven supported housing projects in Swindon will also work at the service.

Stonewater’s support has been funded by a three-year, £19,980 grant from its charitable arm, The Longleigh Foundation.

“We are so excited to be involved in this new group which will provide an essential and supportive space for young people in Swindon,” says Guy Stenson, Stonewater’s Director of Housing Strategy & Transformation. “Despite increased rights for people who identify as LGBTQ+, the rate of homophobic and biphobic hate crimes increased from nine per cent in 2013 to 16 per cent in 2017. At the same time, seven per cent of LGB people do not feel safe in the area where they live, and this increases to an alarming 14 per cent for trans people.

“Statistics also indicate that 24% of young people accessing homelessness support services – such as our young peoples’ Foyers - identify as LGBTQ+2. This significant figure shows how important it is to provide a safe space where LGBTQ young people can meet others and find the confidence to be themselves.

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with Out of the Can+ and The Diversity Trust on this important initiative which strengthens the focus we already have in our young peoples’ Foyers across the UK to help tackle youth homelessness and help young people improve their sense of self-esteem and self-worth.”

Stonewater is a major provider of supported living schemes across Swindon and currently owns and manages seven projects in the town which provide support for homeless young people and people with mental health and learning needs.

Jo Sharpe at Out of the Can+ says: "OOTC+ are very excited to be working in association with Stonewater and The Diversity Trust, since our first meeting together there has been a positive vibe. This association will help us secure and deliver the youth club provision for the next three years in Swindon, and allow expansion so we can deliver a monthly Saturday session, to reach out further to isolated LGBTQ+ young people within Wiltshire.”

Berkeley Wilde, Director at The Diversity Trust CIC, says: “We are really pleased to be able to support this work in Swindon. This group builds on our expertise in LGBTQ youth work developed in other areas including Bristol and South Gloucestershire, where we run Alphabets LGBTQ youth project. Our partnership with Stonewater and Out of the Can+ will bring sustainability to the great youth work happening in Swindon.”