The US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) recent action to remove protections for transgender people experiencing homelessness or housing instability is blatantly discriminatory and will deny many homeless individuals the shelter they need and deserve. The 2016 Equal Access Rule required recipients of HUD Community Planning and Development programs to grant access to shelter and housing in accordance with a person’s gender identity. HUD’s proposed change to this rule allows service providers to base access to services solely on the provider’s perception of a person’s gender. This action compromises the ability of transgender individuals to seek shelter and compromises their safety solely on the basis of the provider’s personal opinions or religious beliefs. Thus, the new rule is discriminatory, unfair, and inappropriate, and Interfaith Works objects strongly to these rule changes.
The Equal Access Rule’s protections against discrimination are critical to ensure safe access to shelter for all individuals. Protecting transgender people’s access to gender-specific facilities does not endanger the safety or privacy of others, so there is no justification for singling them out for special treatment. Shelters are often a person’s best access point to programs and provide safe, individual housing, a critical need during a global pandemic that endangers anyone who is forced to share living spaces with others. Interfaith Works’ Director Homeless Services, Christine Hong, cautioned “these and other recent actions are major steps backwards from racial equity and for the trans population that experiences homelessness at a disproportionately high rate.”
The HUD proposal would put transgender people directly in harm’s way, further setting back our work to end homelessness.