City Is Committed to Protecting Access to Safe Housing for Baltimore’s LGBTQ+ Community

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed a rule change to allow federally-funded, single-sex homeless shelters to turn away individuals based on their “biological sex.” HUD’s Equal Access rule requires that all HUD-funded housing services be provided without discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Billed as a move to give shelter providers greater autonomy to establish policies that align to their mission, the agency’s proposed change to the Equal Access Rule clearly discriminates against the people those shelters serve, specifically transgender individuals.

We, as city agencies dedicated to protecting and supporting individuals experiencing homelessness and members of our LGBTQ+ community, strongly oppose the rule change. And in this moment, we as a community reassert our commitment to ensuring that all LGBTQ+ individuals experiencing homelessness have equal access to safe shelter and housing.

Deepening the injustice of HUD’s proposed rule change is its timing: amid a global pandemic that is taking a disproportionate toll on already marginalized communities. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, unemployment and risk of eviction are at record highs, setting the stage for a spike in homelessness which, as we know, hits the most vulnerable members of our communities the hardest.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community, and transgender individuals in particular, experience homelessness at higher rates than the general population. Research shows that LGBTQ+ youth are more than 100% more likely to report experiencing homelessness than youth who identify as heterosexual and cisgender. And transgender and non-binary adults are much more likely than heterosexual adults to experience unsheltered homelessness, placing them at even greater risk for the violence and abuse that target the transgender community.

HUD’s proposal would reverse the Equal Access Rule and push transgender individuals experiencing homelessness into street homelessness and closer to the margins. The Baltimore City Continuum of Care, the Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services and the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs stand together in forcefully denouncing HUD’s proposed rule change. We will not change local policies to align with HUD, but instead fight to ensure equitable access to safe housing for members of Baltimore’s LGBTQ+ community and all persons experiencing homelessness in Baltimore.

For more information on MOHS and how you can support the city’s work to make homelessness rare and brief, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and IG: @baltimoremohs.

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The safest place to be during the COVID-19 pandemic is in your own home. With federal Emergency Solutions Grants COVID-19 (ESG-CV) funding, MOHS and Baltimore’s Continuum of Care launched the updated Rapid Rehousing program to move people experiencing homelessness from congregate settings to their own housing. The program has made over 130 housing offers so far in 2021.