HUD Is Taking Important Steps To Combat LGBT Homelessness
This week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) addressed gay and transgender housing discrimination on the White House Blog. The post revealed that in a recent survey of transgender and gender non-conforming persons, 19 percent have been refused housing or an apartment and 19 percent became homeless as a result of their gender identity. A recent brief by the Center for American Progress also found that 38 percent of same-sex couples were discriminated against when attempting to buy or rent property.
The administration’s post comes on the heels of the Unites States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) 2011 annual update to Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, an interagency effort to prevent and end homelessness. Despite the fact that gay and transgender individuals were only reference once in the annual update — in the context of a collaborative effort by the Department of Education hosting the first ever gay and transgender youth summit — homelessness in this community is a serious problem.
The estimated 320,000 to 400,000 gay and transgender homeless youth face the greatest challenges. These Americans find themselves homeless for a number of factors beyond their control including a lack of supportive family or educational structures and discriminatory treatment in out-of-home care facilities. Gay and transgender youth who fall through the cracks have a hard time transiting to a successful and stable adulthood and face higher rates of workplace discrimination and poverty that only exacerbates the problem of homelessness. For example, approximately 8 to 17 percent of gay and transgender workers have reported being passed over for a job or fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Over the past two years, HUD has taken several important steps to ensure that gay and transgender person not only have equal access to housing, but HUD programs. The agency is pursing complaints from gay and transgender persons who have experienced discrimination in housing because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, conducting a nationwide study of gay and transgender housing discrimination, and has issued a rule that proposes regulatory changes to ensure that gay and transgender individuals and families have equal access to housing.
While Congress considers a legislative fix — Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) recently introduced the Housing Opportunities Made Equal Act to expand existing federal housing nondiscrimination requirements to include sexual orientation and gender identity — HUD is filling an important void in ensuring that homeless LGBT Americans are no longer invisible.