Advocates Are Hopeful This First of a Kind Home Will Inspire More to Open Across the Country
“Housing affordability and homelessness continue to impact our most marginalized communities, including our trans community members, who are 18 times more likely to experience homelessness.”
— San Francisco Mayor London Breed
San Francisco, a beacon for the North American transgender community, opened the country’s first trans-specific homelessness shelter last month. One of every two trans people in the city have experienced homelessness. This facility aims to meet the specific needs of this demographic giving them the support they need to find permanent housing.
Invisible People has explored the issue of LGBTIQ+ homelessness before. This group faces unique challenges that present disadvantages in traditional homeless services models.
A 2019 study on LGBTIQ+ homelessness reveals that while this group makes up 20-40% of the homeless population at any given time, they often don’t enjoy as many benefits as other homeless demographics. The study then dives into shelter inaccessibility, pointing out some significant flaws and limitations. “Shelters are intended to be a place of support and refuge for people experiencing homelessness. However, for LGBTIQ+-identifying people, they can be a site of vulnerability and danger.”
Why Are Shelters So Dangerous?
Undertrained staff members
Despite the high numbers, service providers are often uneducated about how to care for the unique needs of LGBTIQ+ homeless people. The lack of training can lead to homophobic remarks and a lack of intervention when homophobic discrimination occurs within shelters.
Homeless shelters, historically lacking in adequate services, exhibit an even greater dearth in services directed to serve the needs of those that identify as non-hetero/cisnormative. For example, LGBTIQ+ people are often denied access to their gender identity, or excluded all together from single-gender shelters.
Gender-based placement increases vulnerability to violence
Bed assignments based on anatomic sex can put those that don’t identify as their birth gender in danger. This leaves non-cis people at risk of aggression and sexual assault from those around them.
Beyond initial bed accessibility issues, the umbrella issue is this: Shelters are usually the first step toward getting access to secure housing.
When trans people are denied access to shelters, whether due to their own safety-danger ratio or being barred entry by shelter workers, they’re being denied the quickest path to permanent housing and getting back on their feet.
That’s where The Trans Home comes in.
The city’s first transgender-specific transitional housing program for adults will house and support 13 residents, each in their own room. Accommodations also include three kitchens and a common living space. Residents can live in the space rent-free for one year. During that time, they will receive support to obtain permanent housing.
“Increasing housing and ensuring equity across our city is my top priority … This new program will provide trans people with the safety and support they [need] as they find a permanent home in San Francisco,” explained Mayor Breed.
Thirteen residents may seem like an insignificant number of people to help. However, the truth is for those 13 people, this opportunity may be life changing—if not lifesaving.
Sarah McBride, a member of the Human Rights Campaign, says that “for far too many transgender people who are struggling with housing insecurity, safe and affirming shelter remains out of reach.”
For 13 transgender people in San Francisco, safe housing is now within their grasp.
McBride is hopeful that other cities will follow suit. A whole community of Americans is holding their breath.