Homeless shelters facing new transgender rules

Homeless shelters facing new transgender rules
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The Department of Housing and Urban Development says a transgender person’s self-identified gender should be the determining factor for placement in a single-sex homeless or domestic violence shelter in a new guidance issued Friday.

“There generally is no legitimate reason in this context for the provider to request documentation of a person’s sex in order to determine appropriate placement, nor should the provider have any basis to deny access to a single-sex emergency shelter or facility solely because the provider possesses identity documents indicating a sex different than the gender with which the client or potential client identifies,” the guidance says.


The guidance goes on to say shelters, which receive HUD funding, are prohibited from asking transgender people questions about their bodies or for documentation, like medical records or a birth certificate, that concerns their anatomy.

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), nearly one in five transgender people have experienced homelessness at some point because of discrimination.

Almost one in three transgender people seeking room at shelters were turned away outright. Fifty-five percent were harassed, 25 percent physically assaulted, and 22 percent sexually assaulted in shelters they were allowed into.

While NCTE said it applauds HUD for issuing the guidance, it cautions it isn't enough to ensure equal access to homeless services for transgender people. The social advocacy organization said the way housing is provided needs to be improved.

“A shelter is not a home, and relying on temporary communal shelters comes with real challenges for anyone — especially survivors of violence and trauma, which many trans people are,” the group said in a release. 

“NCTE strongly supports investing in stable, affordable, and supportive housing, and we applaud portions of President Obama’s FY 2016 budget proposal which would increase those investments.”