Everyone working on behalf of people experiencing homelessness should agree that people in crisis need safety. People experiencing homelessness deserve a safe place to stay that is both welcoming and affirming. They deserve to be accepted as they are and helped on their journey back into permanent housing.
This is the mission of thousands of faith-based and community emergency shelter programs. For some, the shelter services they provide are a manifestation of their faith: to serve others. For most, it is a manifestation of their organization’s commitment to furthering social justice: to fulfill the very urgent needs of their neighbors in crisis.
That includes minors kicked out of their family home, adults fleeing domestic violence, individuals who have been assaulted while sleeping in a public park.
It must also include transgender women, men, and youth–as well as people who do not identify as male, female or transgender (known as gender expansive). Because these are individuals who also become homeless after being kicked out of their family home, after fleeing domestic violence, and who are at heightened risk of being assaulted while unsheltered.
A Vulnerable Population
A 2017 analysis of women experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles found that 68% of the homeless transgender individuals surveyed, including minors and those over age 18, reported a lifetime history of domestic violence; 42% reported having been trafficked.
They represent a vulnerable group that too often are without shelter when experiencing homelessness. Recent research indicates that 56% of transgender and 82% of gender expansive people experiencing homelessness are unsheltered. When they do attempt to connect with shelter services, transgender individuals report that they’re often steered towards programs that do not conform with their gender identity.
Simply stated: transgender and gender expansive people experiencing homelessness deserve a safe place to stay that is both welcoming and affirming. They deserve to be accepted as they are and helped on their journey back into permanent housing. They deserve equal access to the life-saving shelter and services that homeless assistance programs can provide.
A Matter of Identity
The homeless assistance field is populated by thousands of compassionate and innovative residents, staff members, volunteers, advocates, and leaders. The field is often on the forefront of social justice issues. One can expect, therefore, that this field will advance progress in providing inclusive services to transgender individuals — even if granted permission to discriminate. It will find more ways to welcome, not exclude, vulnerable groups that need the safety and stability of shelter to escape homelessness.
In honor of Pride Month, and in honor of transgender and gender expansive people who have faced too many closed doors when in desperate need, the Alliance renews its commitment to inclusivity. It reaffirms its efforts to dismantle barriers to homeless assistance. And it welcomes the thoughts and lessons learned from our local partners who are leading the way toward achieving equal access and safe, welcoming and affirming programs for transgender people experiencing homelessness.