Why It’s Necessary:
As Transgender and gender non conforming individuals in the state of Missouri, it is extremely challenging and sometimes impossible to find a safe place to sleep at night. Whether because of discrimination enshrined in state law or family transphobia, we are losing our families and, more than likely, fighting to keep our jobs. Those in this population are more likely to experience discrimination from family and employers and/or coworkers, which can lead to being removed from homes, experiencing unemployment, underemployment, and, ultimately, homelessness. According to the U.S. Transgender Survey, 77% of the respondents who have been employed reported taking extra steps to avoid mistreatment and discrimination in the workplace (Dec. 2017). In fact, according to this same U.S. Trans Survey, the unemployment rate for Trans and GNC individuals is three times higher, and black respondents were three times more likely to be living in poverty than that of the general U.S. population (Dec. 2017). Respondents also reported losing employment, being denied promotions, and unequal access to home buying. It’s very difficult to rent or own a home if you’re discriminated against at every economic turn. The U.S. Trans Survey concluded that only 16% of our population owns a home, compared to 63% of the general population (Dec. 2017). This kind of economic and financial hardship is the gateway for housing crises and homelessness.
After losing a battle to just keep a roof over our heads, the battle for our lives continues when we are forced into shelters and housing programs. Many shelters are not only unwilling to accommodate us appropriately but often create situations that put our lives in danger. Staff and residents are not prepared, educated, or required to treat us with respect. They misgender us. They put trans men in women’s programs and trans women in the men’s programs. They refuse to use any other name than a legal name. They ask inappropriate questions and spread misinformation about trans and GNC individuals during their stay. The U.S. Trans Survey reported that 26% of respondents avoided shelter programs, 70% of respondents reported high levels of mistreatment, and 22% reported being sexually assaulted by staff or other residents (Dec. 2017). Support, education, and training is desperately needed in Missouri shelters.
We demand that Trans and GNC individuals in Missouri have equal and safe, affirming access to buying a home, renting an apartment, and seeking shelter in programs. We desperately need to re-evaluate our laws in order to eliminate and/or diminish mistreatment and abuse to our Trans and GNC community at every economic level. What little housing protections we had for gender identity through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are being taken away as we speak. Just this year, HUD has released a proposed new rule which would essentially allow the shelter providers, not the individual, to determine an individuals’ gender identity and/or sex in regards to placement in their programs.
We demand that existing shelters be educated on the consequences of their actions and that the legislature in State of Missouri and/or Missouri’s biggest cities (St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield) develop and implement protective policies in housing and shelters for our trans and gnc population. Although such practices may seem new or out of reach, other states have long surpassed Missouri and have been improving their policies for over ten years. We can look to these other states as guidance moving forward. The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition published their 2012 best practices for homeless shelters called “Shelter for All Genders” and is available online for anybody to read at their website. We demand education and training of staff in shelter models, as well as modifying intake forms, respecting an individual's gender even if it is outside of the gender binary, not disclosing confidential and/or misinformation about an individual to other staff or residents, and we demand that individuals be placed inside spaces where their gender is affirmed and/or where they feel most safe, regardless of perceived gender identity or gender expression.
We demand additional support for programs and shelters who are already doing the work and want to do the work. There are not enough resources at this time to effectively make the housing and shelter changes we need to see in our state. Shelters and/or housing programs that are already working to meet the needs of trans and gender-nonconforming individuals need more funding and more space. Missouri is failing our communities with dangerous and deadly results. Missouri state legislature must pass comprehensive housing protections and funding on a state level in order to begin to save Missouri lives.