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Photo: International Planned Parenthood Federation
The Trump admin maintained a policy of denying nondiscrimination protections for transgender and nonbinary individuals in homeless shelters. Photo: International Planned Parenthood Federation

Housing is a human right, especially for transgender and nonbinary people in the U.S.

HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge recently announced that it will be ending Trump-era efforts to deny nondiscrimination protections in homeless shelters.

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On Thursday, April 22, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge formally announced that the department has ended its effort to deny critical nondiscrimination protections for transgender and nonbinary people in homeless shelters.

The announcement codified that homeless shelters are no longer legally permitted to turn transgender people away from single-sex facilities that match their gender identity.

In response to the news, David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), issued a statement, reflecting on how 2021 has already become the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the U.S.

“Today’s announcement that the Biden Administration is returning to the Obama-era policy that transgender people cannot be turned away from single-sex homeless shelter facilities that match their gender identity will help to save lives,” Johns said.

The NBJC is the nation’s leading civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people, including those living with HIV.

Deputy Executive Director of NBJC, Victoria Kirby York, expressed gratitude to President Biden and Fudge, adding that this decision will provide shelter and hope to the many transgender kids who are forced to fend for themselves “solely because they chose to live exactly as they are.”

York then described a hypothetical situation to call attention to the severity of this issue and the value of this announcement.

“Imagine being a transgender youth, kicked out of your home after your parents learn that you identify as transgender, only to then be kicked out of a homeless shelter for the same reason. The trauma that one experiences with housing insecurity can be unbearable for students who should be focused on their learning and development,” she said.

Fudge, who is the first Black woman secretary for HUD in 40 years, said that access to safe, stable housing-and-shelter is “a basic necessity.”

The Equal Access Rule will ensure that all individuals — regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity — have equal access to the Department’s Office of Community Planning and Development programs, shelters, other buildings and facilities, benefits, services, and accommodations. 

Fudge explained that transgender and gender non-conforming people report more instances of housing insecurity and homelessness than cisgender people do.

“Today we are taking a critical step in affirming HUD’s commitment that no person be denied access to housing or other critical services because of their gender identity. HUD is open for business for all,” she said.

The Trump administration declined to fully implement the Equal Access Rule, and in 2020, it proposed a rule that would have allowed shelter programs and operators to subject transgender individuals to inappropriate and intrusive questions, deny them accommodations, and trample them with greater harassment.

HUD has submitted its action withdrawing that rule to the Federal Register, which is expected to publish it next week. The action reinstates the department’s mission and dedication to creating inclusive communities and quality housing for all.

Along with the announcement, HUD is releasing technical assistance resources prepared by technical assistance providers to HUD grantees. These resources will support their Office of Community Planning and Development grantees as they implement the Equal Access Rule.

Equal access to programs and services provided by HUD to those experiencing homelessness is crucial to addressing the challenges faced by transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.

National research indicates that denials of shelter access for transgender and nonbinary people based on their gender identity is far too common.

According to survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, nearly half (47%) of all transgender respondents who had access to shelters ended up leaving due to the mistreatment they received there — choosing to live on the streets rather than face the abuse and indignity they experienced.

The survey also reported that 25% of transgender people who stayed in shelters were physically assaulted and 22% were sexually assaulted. These assaults were perpetrated by both shelter residents as well as staff.

Housing is a human right, and after four years of hell, it seems that statement might be true again.

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