The Department of Housing and Urban Development May 22 proposed new rules that would weaken protections for transgender people who are experiencing homelessness by allowing federally funded  shelters to deny them admission or require them to share bathrooms and sleeping areas with people of a different gender identity.

Under current federal regulations adopted by HUD, sex-segregated homeless shelters must admit all transgender and gender non-conforming individuals and house those individuals according to their gender identity.

Now, the federal government is seeking to roll back these protections and instead allow operators of sex-segregated programs to develop policies that allow employees to make their own determination of a transgender individual’s sex (using factors such as religious beliefs or sex reflected on official government documents) in deciding whether and how to house transgender individuals.

HUD’s existing Equal Access Rules were adopted to address significant barriers that homeless transgender persons often face in finding shelters that affirm their gender identity.

Southern Legal Counsel and other advocacy groups and homeless service organizations denounced the Trump Administration’s proposed rollback of homeless shelter rights and protections for the transgender community and stand together in support of the U.S. Department of HUD’s Equal Access Rules.

In an open letter, advocacy groups including SLC, Equality Florida, the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida, QLatinx, Zebra Coalition and One Orlando Alliance called weakening the Equal Access Rules and enforcement mechanisms “inhumane and unacceptable.”

"We… believe that all people should be treated equally under the law, with dignity and respect. We believe that everyone, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation, deserves compassion and support in their time of need. Homelessness is a national tragedy. LGBTQ individuals face a particular set of challenges, both in becoming homeless as well as when they are trying to avoid homelessness. Additionally, transgender people face alarming levels of social stigma, discrimination, and often rejection by their families, which adds to the physical and mental strains that transgender homeless persons must struggle with,” the letter states.

Simone Chriss, director of transgender rights at SLC, works with other SLC attorneys to train homeless service providers statewide on compliance with HUD’s Equal Access Rules.  

"We strongly oppose the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's proposed rollback of the current regulations that protect transgender individuals in accessing life-sustaining programs and services,” Chriss said. “Currently, sex-segregated shelters must house people in accordance with their gender identity, but the proposed rule would allow shelters to take into account myriad other factors that will allow and encourage discrimination against transgender individuals.”