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Last Updated: 12-Jan-2017 15:42
The purpose of this policy is to assist staff in shelters and homeless service agencies with
providing services to transgender and gender nonconforming individuals in a manner
consistent with federal, state, and local laws. Homelessness, shelter access, and client
safety are serious issues for the transgender and gender nonconforming communities
across the country.
Transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) people experience homelessness at
much higher rates than the general public because of frequent discrimination and abuse
based on their gender identity and presentation. And yet, TGNC people experiencing
homelessness often face barriers to shelter services because of the same discrimination
that contributed to their homelessness in the first place. In a 2011 survey of 6,500 TGNC
people, almost 20% of transgender individuals reported experiencing homelessness
at some point in their lives.1 A majority of those trying to access a homeless shelter
reported being harassed by shelter staff or residents; almost 30% of that majority were
turned away altogether. This discrimination and abuse impacts their ability to access
vital services and support, such as education, employment, mental and physical health
services, emotional support, and housing.
TGNC youth are also overrepresented in the homeless population, often as a result of
rejection by their families and discrimination in shelters and housing programs.
While it is dangerously common for TGNC people to be turned away from shelters because
of their gender identity, those who do manage to gain access to shelters are frequently
housed based on their sex at birth rather than their gender identity. This situation is
particularly dangerous for transgender women who are inappropriately placed in men’s
shelters where they often subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment and abuse,
including sexual assault. While some transgender people will run the high risk of facing
harassment and violence in a shelter that doesn’t match their gender identity just so
that they can be housed for the night, others in this situation will simply forgo shelter
and sleep on street.
Shelters and agencies must work to ensure the safety of these particularly vulnerable
groups by enacting TGNC-inclusive policies to address the unique needs of these
clients. Ensuring that TGNC people are able to access services means shelter staff at
all levels of the organization must be properly trained. To provide a safe and accessible
environment to everyone they serve, staff must be able to respond to other clients’
objections to the presence of TGNC people by educating clients about who TGNC people
are and the agency’s inclusive policies.
This model policy provides guidance to shelters and homeless services agencies as well
as information about anti-discrimination laws that apply to many of these agencies.