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July 6, 2020

Proposed HUD Rule Change Would Allow Discrimination in Emergency Shelters

AUSTIN, Texas (July 6, 2020) — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last week proposed rolling back a 2016 rule that prohibits discrimination in emergency shelters based on gender identity. The proposed rule change would allow shelters to deny services to transgender individuals experiencing homelessness.

The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) stands with our transgender neighbors and homeless services partners in unequivocally opposing this change to the Equal Access rule.

“It is counter-intuitive and cruel that HUD would initiate any policy changes that will lead to higher rates of homelessness,” said ECHO Executive Director Matt Mollica. “The Equal Access to Housing Rule and all related guidance was initially meant to equip service providers with the information they need to serve the transgender community well. The rules are designed to provide a baseline of protection for LGBTQ people when they are at their most vulnerable. The weakening of these protections is unjust and is an example of HUD acting against its mission of ending homelessness in this country.”

In 2016, HUD updated the Equal Access to Housing Rule to state that any program or shelter provider that receives funding from the agency’s Office of Community Planning and Development cannot discriminate based on gender identity. This proposed change would reverse course and allow HUD-funded programs to deny equal treatment to transgender individuals.

ECHO fully supports the joint statement issued last week by several national organizations that serve transgender Americans and work to end homelessness, including the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, True Colors United, and the Transgender Law Center. The statement reads, in part:

As it is, one in three transgender Americans has been homeless at some point in their lives, and this proposal would have them sleep on the street rather than get help. The difference between being sheltered and unsheltered is especially dangerous for transgender homeless persons, particularly transgender persons of color, who face harassment and threats from private individuals, as well as elevated rates of policing and violence within police custody. When combined with President Trump’s recent policy proposals to increase criminalization of homelessness, while cutting HUD’s affordable housing budget and rolling back support for Housing First, it is clear that getting transgender persons off the street and out of harm’s way is a matter of life and death.

HUD’s proposal to allow agencies to deny shelter or services to an individual because they are transgender is promoting discrimination, pure and simple. Fortunately, most service providers agree – in fact, over 300 anti-sexual violence and anti-domestic violence organizations, many of whom operate shelters, signed a joint statement in 2016 supporting nondiscrimination protections like the current Equal Access Rule and opposing proposals that would allow discrimination against transgender people in need. Although most service providers remain committed to serving everyone without discrimination, the unfortunate consequence of this regulation is likely to be that thousands of vulnerable people will be turned away from help when they needed it most, simply because of who they are.”

Read the full statement here.

HUD must allow for public comments on the proposed rule change. Sign up here to receive an alert when the comment period opens to tell HUD discrimination in emergency shelters is unacceptable.