Homeless Shelters May Soon Be Allowed To Discriminate Against Transgender People

The HUD decision contradicts a promise made earlier this week.

Photo credit:Getty Images

| May 23 2019,

12:43 am

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is seeking to eradicate protections for homeless trans people. 

On Tuesday, HUD Secretary Ben Carson told Congress he would not be making revisions to the current Equal Access Rule, which guarantees trans people protections in housing. However, his latest decision contradicts the pledge made. 

According to Politico, a new HUD proposal aims to allow shelters which receive funds from the department, to consider a person’s sex or gender identification to determine if they can be admitted.

“Later this year, HUD will be proposing a change to the 2016 rule that will offer local homeless shelter providers greater flexibility when making decisions about individuals who may misrepresent their sex to access sex-specific shelters,” a HUD spokesperson said in a statement to Politico. “HUD is, and will always be, committed to ensuring that every person accessing its programs can do so without discrimination.”

The 2016 rule was first implemented by the Obama administration in 2012. Under the policy, trans people were allowed to be placed in shelters by the gender they identified with, not their assigned gender. As The Advocate notes, transgender and gender-nonconforming people tended to experience greater harassment when placed by their assigned gender. They usually turn to the streets instead of staying in a shelter where harassment can be rampant.

Under the proposed rule, shelters could use several factors to determine whether a person is admitted. Sex and gender, privacy, safety, practical concerns, religious beliefs are among the criterion. 

Despite the pushback and criticism, HUD officials claim “the proposed rule does not dictate a required basis for making determinations other than that they are consistent with overall policy.” The new essentially makes it legal to discriminate against people deemed unfit to be in a shelter. 

According to data from the National Coalition for the Homelessness, members of the LGBT community face homelessness at greater numbers than other people. Almost in every category LGBT are struggling to find permanent housing. About 43% of clients served by drop-in centers identified as LGBT, 30% of street outreach clients are  LGBT and 30% of clients utilizing housing programs are LGBT.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, took Carson and HUD to task for its harsh new policy. 

“This is a heartless attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” she said in a press release. “The programs impacted by this rule are life-saving for transgender people, particularly youth rejected by their families, and a lack of stable housing fuels the violence and abuse that takes the lives of many transgender people of color across the country. Secretary Carson’s actions are contrary to the mission of his Department and yet another example of tragic cruelty of this administration.”