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News Date: Tuesday, February 07, 2006

NYC's Department of Homeless Services Issues a Trans-Affirmative Housing Policy

Gender Identity Will Determine Shelter Placement for Transgender New Yorkers

The New York City Department of Homeless Services issued a policy change on January 31, 2006, to end discriminatory practices toward transgender clients at its homeless shelters. Advocates from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (the Center), Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ), and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) have worked for three years to adopt this change, which guides intake, assessment, and shelter staff to ensure that gender identity is taken into consideration when making intake assignments.

New York City’s homeless shelter system is based on single-sex segregation. This segregation has proven unsafe for transgender New Yorkers who, until now, have been classified based on their birth gender, rather than on their gender identity. Furthermore, New York City’s 2002 Human Rights Law specifically prohibits discrimination in public accommodations and housing based on gender, including actual or perceived gender. The shelter system’s violation of this law seriously endangers transgender people. According to Carrie Davis, coordinator of the Center’s Gender Identity Project, “Contrary to New York City’s ’Guidelines Regarding Gender Identity Discrimination,’ many transgender women have been placed in men’s shelters, creating highly dangerous situations sometimes resulting in harassment and sexual assault, and effectively excluding them from homeless services.”

The new policy requires shelter intake staff to determine a client’s gender by his or her gender identity. The new policy will be implemented in phases and will include training for shelter staff on diversity and transgender issues.

“The Department of Homeless Services has worked diligently with trans-advocates over the past several years to solve this long-standing problem,” says Jay Toole, QEJ Shelter Organizer. “Their efforts are to be applauded as this is the best policy of its kind in the nation and will serve as a model for other shelter systems across the country.”

Dean Spade, SRLP Legal Fellow, commented, "This is an incredible victory, but the next step will be maintaining a relationship with DHS, ensuring that proper training is in place, and making certain this policy becomes a lived reality for homeless trans-New Yorkers."

Special thanks to the people and organizations who have helped make this new policy a reality including Franklin Romeo, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund; Paisley Currah, Transgender Law and Policy Institute (TLPI); Ivan Dominguez, Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues at the New York County Lawyers' Association; Diana Olaizola and Patrick Markee, Coalition for the Homeless (CFTH); Joann Prinzivalli, New York Transgender Rights Organization (NYTRO); and the members of the QEJ-hosted working group who helped bring this issue to the Mayor’s office.

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