‘Phone a friend’ scheme to help isolated LGBT+ people launched

Wise Thoughts with a Pride rainbow flag

Wise Thoughts celebrating Haringey Pride in 2019. - Credit: Wise Thoughts

A new befriending service is helping LGBT+ people in Highgate, Muswell Hill and Crouch End overcome loneliness and social isolation.

Volunteers for Haringey charity Wise Thoughts, which aim to create "safe spaces" for all ages, are matched with people who have signed up for regular, informal chats over the phone.

Cesar Teixeira, who is co-ordinating the program for the charity, told the Ham&High “feeling socially isolated from the community was becoming quite a problem” among LGBT+ people during the pandemic.

“The vast majority of people who use our services are in social situations at home that aren't necessarily the most welcoming or supportive of their sexuality or their gender identity,” he said, adding that many are cut off from regular social spaces and their "chosen" family.

Wise Thoughts has also seen an increase in demand during December: “If you don't really have a community, [Christmas] can definitely feel quite lonely.”

While there are a few befriending services in north London, most focus on helping the elderly and none are specifically for the LGBT+ community, Cesar said.

He added: “The initial focus is a peer-to-peer friendship where both people know that there's no risk of there being ulterior motives.

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“A lot of people who use the service are naturally very shy, or they don't know very many LGBT people. So they're new to forming those relationships or perhaps they've fallen into a pattern of forming relationships on a more physical level.

“It makes the person using the service more confident to go out and make new relationships, because they've already had a successful friendship.”

Wise Thoughts runs several other support and social initiatives for LGBT+ people, as well as arts and social justice programs, from its base in Wood Green.

WiseFriends launched in November with funding from the National Lotteries Communities Fund and the London Community Response Fund.

It is open to anyone over 16 who identifies as LGBTQ+ and works, studies or lives in Haringey, and is now recruiting both volunteers and those who would like to make a friend.

Visit www.wisethoughts.org/wisefriends