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Homeless Shelter Access for Transgender People

Winter in New England is hard on people without homes, and hard in specific ways for people who are transgender and seeking shelter.

To help shelters better serve transgender guests, and to ensure transgender people know their rights when seeking shelter, the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) and GLAD are launching a shelter access education project.

No one should be deciding to stay on the streets because being in a shelter is even more dangerous, not just for their physical well-being but for their emotional well-being too.

Best Practices and a Model Policy for Shelters

The first phase of this project is the distribution of the best practices guide, Shelter for All Genders, and a model policy for shelters.

Developed by MTPC in December 2013, Shelter for All Genders addresses many issues that shelter staff can find challenging in serving transgender residents: confidentiality, preventing harassment, proper accommodations, intake and screening, health issues, dress codes, and staff training.

Download Shelter for All Genders here.

GLAD also worked with the Lynn Emergency Shelter on a model policy, which addresses many of the best practices outlined in Shelter for all Genders, for example:

  • Training: the shelter will train staff annually on policies and procedures, terminology, and local, state and federal laws protecting transgender people;
  • Respect: Transgender clients will be addressed by their preferred pronoun and name, and will not be turned away because of their appearance or because of conflicting gender markers on legal ID’s;
  • Accommodations: Transgender clients will be housed according to their self-reported gender identity, regardless of appearance or other factors; they will also have access to bathrooms and showers consistent with their gender identity.
  • Freedom from harassment: Shelter staff will not tolerate verbal or physical harassment of any client at the shelter.

Download the Model Policy here.

Housing and Urban Development Guidance

Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the federal agency primarily responsible for funding shelter services across the nation, recently released guidance on the appropriate placement for transgender persons in single-sex emergency shelters and other facilities. Their guidance is consistent with many of the topics covered in GLAD’s recent series of workshops: Got T Rights? Equal Access and Equal Treatment.

Please see HUD’s Guidance here.

HUD is taking one step closer to ensuring that transgender people accessing shelter services are treated with dignity and respect, but there is still more work to be done!​