New York City hasn’t fulfilled its promise to build shelters for trans houseless people

New York City hasn’t fulfilled its promise to build shelters for trans houseless people

In 2021, LGBTQ+ activists reached a landmark agreement with New York City officials to build houseless shelters for transgender and gender non-conforming people. But three years later, the city has made no progress on their construction.

On Friday, the Strategic Trans Alliance for Radical Reform (S.T.A.R.R.) rallied in Foley Square in Lower Manhattan to hold New York City officials to their agreement. The city agreed to construct four shelters specifically designated for trans and gender nonconforming houseless people, as well as to train staff in nondiscrimination policies and trans/nonbinary cultural competence.

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The shelters should have been completed two years ago, but Mayor Eric Adams is not adhering to the agreement. S.T.A.R.R executive director Mariah Lopez told News 12 New York that “since taking office, Mayor Adams’ administration has ignored all commitments made by the prior administration in black and white.”

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A spokesperson with the Department of Social Services told the aforementioned news station, “We are committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment for every LGBTQIA+ New Yorker who comes to us in need of shelter. Over the last several years, we have taken deliberate and proactive steps to create a more inclusive shelter system and we continue to work diligently to strengthen protections for LGBTQIA+ individuals and provide comprehensive, trauma-informed supports and services to this population.”

“Additionally, DSS-DHS [the New York City Department of Social Services and Department of Homeless Services] has set aside dedicated units in existing shelter facilities across the city to provide safe and affirming shelter for transgender and gender non-conforming clients, in compliance with this settlement,” the spokesperson said.

Numerous studies have found that trans and LGBTQ+ people are at much higher risk of experiencing houselessness and housing instability than their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts. The Covenant House New York, the largest provider of runaway and houseless youth services in New York City, says that 29% of the youth they serve identify as LGBTQ+.

Houseless trans people face more barriers navigating social and housing services, research has shown, such as discrimination, barriers to successfully applying, and lack of access to services. While on the streets, trans people have also faced increased mental health issues due to “ongoing exposure to gendered and sexual violence resulting from housing deprivation,” a 2020 study found.

Trans activists who spoke at the rally say that the trans community has been hurt by the city’s failure to uphold the agreement.

“There were plenty of nights we went back to the Department of Social Services, and they told us there was nothing they could do, so we had to sleep outside in our vehicle,” said trans person Somayah Haskins.

“DHS failed me. The housing placement and the housing specialist discriminated against me because of who and what I was,” another trans speaker, Shauna Brooks shared.

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