Friday, March 4, 2016

New HUD Resources Help Shelters Provide Safe Access for Trans People

The Department of Housing and Urban Development this week released a suite of resources for homeless shelters and other programs to provide safe and equal access for LGBT people, including respecting every person’s gender identity. NCTE, which has been advocating with HUD for years to strengthen protections for LGBT shelter-seekers, provided recommendations for the new toolkit along with many agencies serving individuals affected by homelessness or domestic violence.

The resources, including a new guide and self-assessment tool for shelters, build on HUD’s 2015 guidance that HUD-funded shelters should respect all people’s gender identities, including in shelter admission and placement. HUD is currently in the process of formalizing that guidance in a final regulation, and over 1,500 LGBT people recently joined NCTE in submitting comments and personal stories on the rule. HUD’s approach is similar to federal guidelines for domestic violence programs, schools, workplaces, and job training programs.

The new HUD resources answer common questions from shelter staff, present sample scenarios, and link to additional sources. NCTE encourages advocates and providers around the country to use these resources to help ensure that local programs’ policies, staff training, and organizational culture are safe and welcoming for everyone in need of shelter and support.

Until we as a nation make the necessary investments to end homelessness, shelters must be safe and accessible for everyone. Equal access is an issue of dignity and basic personal safety for transgender people, nearly one in five of whom have experienced homelessness according to the 2008-2009 National Trans Discrimination Survey. The same survey found 47 percent of transgender people who went to shelters reported having to leave because of harassment or assault.

A more recent survey by the Center for American Progress and the Equal Rights Center found that only 30 of 100 shelters in four states said they were willing to house transgender women with other women.

Whether or not shelters in your community receive funding from HUD, they may be subject to similar requirements under the Fair Housing Act, the Violence Against Women Act, or other state or federal protections. We encourage anyone who has (or knows someone who has) faced housing discrimination, including at a shelter, to use our Know Your Rights resource and consider filing a complaint with HUD.

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