Today, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) issued a final rule requiring federally funded emergency shelters to house people in accordance with their gender identity in emergency shelters that are segregated by gender. The final rule clarifies that emergency shelters that receive federal funding cannot force a person into housing that is inconsistent with their gender identity or deny them housing altogether because of their gender identity. This rule clarifies that gender identity means the gender with which a person identifies, regardless of the sex assigned to that person at birth and regardless of the person’s perceived gender identity or the gender shown on the person’s identity documents. The final rule also requires shelters to post notices to help inform the public about the rule.
“Shelters are a critical resource for people in immediate need of a safe place to go, but right now they too often add to the risk transgender people face by failing to house them appropriately,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center. “We applaud HUD for adopting this rule to make shelters safer and more accessible for everyone.”
A lack of access to emergency shelters for transgender and gender nonconforming people—especially for homeless youth—is a pervasive problem. In a 2009 survey of more than 6,000 TGNC people, almost 20% of transgender individuals reported experiencing homelessness at some point in their lives. The same survey found that a majority of those trying to access a homeless shelter reported being harassed by shelter staff or residents; almost 30% of that majority were turned away altogether. Nearly half of all transgender respondents who accessed shelters left those shelters because of the treatment they received there.
When emergency shelters deny transgender and gender nonconforming people emergency housing altogether or housing consistent with their gender identity, they are placed at great risk of living on the streets or seeking shelter in male-only facilities where they experience abuse, harassment, and sexual assault.
Earlier this year, Transgender Law Center released a resource for homeless shelters and agencies outlining best practices for working with transgender and gender nonconforming people, available here.
To read the final rule, click here.
To report housing discrimination to HUD, you can fill out an online form here or call HUD toll-free at 1-800-669-9777.