Public comments can forestall a discriminatory rule

HUD is trying to change the rules to let shelters place trans people in facilities based on their sex, not their gender identity — a further barrier for a population that already experiences homelessness disproportionately

BRATTLEBORO — In a shocking move, during a time of crisis in our country, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), announced on July 24 that it intends to roll back protections for transgender people.

The proposed policy reconsiders protections put into place in 2016 which allowed transgender people to access shelter space based upon their gender identity, not their sex assigned at birth.

The removal of this protection would permit shelters to establish policies that disregard their gender identity.

Shelters are often the best access point for a person experiencing homelessness into programs that provide safe, individual housing - a critical need during a global pandemic, which is putting those without a home at greater risk than ever before.

Shelters in this country largely operate based on gender binary - placing males and females in separate sleeping quarters. While housing transgender people according to their gender identity does not pose a safety issue for others, failing to do so puts such clients - who are more often victims of physical violence - in danger.

Marginalized populations - including transgender people - are disproportionally affected by homelessness. HUD should be doing everything it can to scale up services so they can be available to everyone who needs them, not pushing policies that will create further barriers to accessing housing.

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At Groundworks, we believe that housing is a human right. Removing existing protections for transgender people experiencing homelessness and forcing people to accept shelter assigned without regard for their gender identity is discriminatory and wrong.

We strive to ensure that everyone in our community has their basic needs met with dignity. We respect people's identity and make every effort to codify that respect in our policies and procedures.

While we invite individuals to identify the space where they will feel most comfortable sleeping based upon their own gender identity, we also recognize that many shelters do not offer people this protection.

We will continue to ensure that our transgender neighbors in need of shelter have access to this protection, and we urge you to join us in advocating to ensure this protection remains in policy nationwide.

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The comment period for this proposed change runs for 60 days through Sept. 22.

HUD is legally required to write a response to each unique comment before the agency can implement a final rule. The more comments the agency receives, the longer it will take to put this dangerous and discriminatory rule into effect.

Flooding HUD with public comments via a portal at housingsaveslives.org is one way to encourage the agency to abandon this rule change. This website, an initiative of more than 40 nonprofits, provides talking points and question prompts to help support you in making a public comment.

All you have to do is share your thoughts on why nondiscrimination protections for trans people experiencing homelessness are important. Please join us in ensuring that these critical protections remain in place.

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