This summer, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced its intention to amend the 2016 update to the Equal Access Rule. This policy protects transgender and gender non-conforming individuals experiencing homelessness by mandating that shelter providers accommodate a person’s self-expressed gender identity when they seek to enter shelter.
The proposed changes would remove these protections, a move that would only increase the vulnerabilities that trans people experience while homeless: trans people disproportionately experience trauma, violence, and unsheltered situations when on the streets, and should not encounter additional barriers or discrimination when seeking shelter.
No one knows this better than Shante Thomas. Shante was homeless in San Jose for ten years, and is now in housing with the help of Destination Home. Her time on the streets, though, makes it clear that trans women – specifically Black trans women like herself – will be put at an increased vulnerability if proposed Equal Access Rule changes are soon revoked.
“I had to go through a hell of a lot just to live my life. And I’m living now, I’m happy now, but there was so much coming at me. It was so frustrating, it was so irritating because I didn’t know who was going to come at me, who was going disrespect me, do something to me when I’m asleep, or do something while I’m just walking down the street,” said Thomas in a conversation with Alliance staff.
Her experiences living unsheltered – undergoing violence and significant physical harm due to her identity – are unfortunately shared by many transgender people experiencing homelessness. According to VI-SPDAT data, 56% of Black and 26% of White trans people experiencing unsheltered homelessness have been attacked while homeless.
Read the full article about equal access protections for the homeless by Lindsay Hueston at National Alliance to End Homelessness.
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