HUD-Proposed Changes Would Weaken Protections for Transgender Individuals Experiencing Homelessness
On July 24, 2020, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a proposed rule change to the current HUD Equal Access Rule, which would result in weakened protections for transgender, gender non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals in HUD-funded shelters.
The current HUD Equal Access Rule mandates that providers who receive HUD funding must serve individuals in accordance with their gender identity, regardless of their sex assigned at birth. Providers are also not allowed to subject individuals to intrusive questioning or ask them to provide evidence of their gender identity. In 2017, LAHSA authored an Equal Access Policy for the LA CoC, in accordance with the current HUD rule, to affirm the LA CoC’s commitment to ensuring safe and stable housing that is accessible to all residents in shelters administered by LAHSA, regardless of funding source. This policy will remain the standard for LAHSA-administered programs throughout the LA CoC, regardless of if this HUD-proposed rule change is enacted or not.
HUD is now proposing to alter this rule by allowing HUD-assisted providers to establish a policy to admit and place an individual based on actual or perceived sex. Providers may consider privacy, safety, or other relevant factors when making this decision and may make determinations of sex based on a “good faith belief,” opening the door to subjective criteria and discriminatory practices. HUD is also allowing providers to request evidence of gender identity if the provider’s beliefs conflict with the individual’s claim.
All across the country, transgender, gender non-conforming, and gender non-binary individuals experiencing homelessness are disproportionately unsheltered. This is true even within the LA CoC, despite having an Equal Access Policy, which speaks to the level of discrimination, fear, and mistrust these individuals face when seeking services and shelter. During a time when rates of homelessness are likely to be exacerbated by the COVID-19 global pandemic, HUD should be enhancing efforts to bring stable housing to those that are most at-risk. Instead, HUD has proposed a rule change which will further disconnect an already marginalized population from necessary services, leaving them even more vulnerable to violence and trauma.
The proposed rule change is currently open for public comment. On July 24, 2020, the LAHSA Commission approved our public comment in opposition and we strongly urge providers and advocates to submit public comments of their own – a template comment can be found here. To learn more about the rule change and ways to comment, you can visit the Housing Saves Lives website, here. Comments are due by September 22, 2020 at 8:59 pm PST through this portal.
For more information or for the template in Word format, please contact LAHSA's Legislative Affairs Analyst, Samantha Vethavanam, via email.