Rights of the LGBT Community and Homelessness

The last Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meeting this week featured Kris Keniray of the Housing Research and Advocacy Center gave a presentation on a change in the fair housing law being implemented by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  In 2012, HUD published the rule which regulates all programs funded by federal housing dollars provides for equal access to housing regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity (contained in the Federal Register Feb. 3, 2012 Vol. 77 No. 23).  The new rules went into effect on March 5, 2012, and governs Public Housing, the Voucher program, Block Grant funding, HOME dollars, FHA mortgages, and even Emergency Shelter grants. 

The Housing Authority is changing their annual plan and attempting to incorporate these regulations into their local rules.  The big change is going to have to take place in the shelters.  There is a YouTube video dealing with this new rule on the HUDChannel [search for HUD LGBT Rule Webinar (updated) 3/5/12].   Shelters have not effectively dealt with the transgendered for years.  In Cleveland, those who present as male and the larger number of genetically male who present as female have lived at our largest men's shelter for years.  In 2012, the Community Women's Shelter changed their policy to meet the new guidelines, but I have not seen the other shelters make changes.  Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s there were not as many presenting at the shelters who were transgendered and the community could afford motel vouchers to keep the individuals safe and not force them onto the streets.   Some of the deeply religious programs are not going to like this new policy, but that is the cost of taking public money.  How will the shelters that are in churches at night going to like when a Mom and Mom with her kids show up in need of shelter? Is the Salvation Army (which is a religion) going to be okay with a Dad who presents as a woman at the shelter?

The rule is pretty clear, but the fundamentalist religious organizations that receive public money are going to be very skeptical about this new policy.  They are going to have to offer help to individuals who they condemn their "lifestyle" based on their own interpretation of their religious texts.  The new policy requires:

  1. Equal access by all HUD funded programs or mortgages secured by the Federal Housing Administration.  These programs must be made available to households without regard to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.
  2. Family or household include persons regardless of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. 
  3. There is a prohibition on owners or operators of HUD funded programs or housing insured by FHA from asking about an applicants or occupants sexual orientation or gender identity for the purpose of determining eligibility or otherwise making housing available. 
  4. Prohibition on FHA lender from taking into account actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in determining the adequacy of a potential borrowers income.

The issue will come about when people experience discrimination, but have no where to go to complain.  The household must complain to the local HUD office or HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at 800-669-9777.  Locally, NEOCH or the Housing Center at 28th and Euclid can help.  For many finding a way to complain will be a big hurdle.  We thank Kris for bringing this issue to the broader community.  This is a social justice issue to protect access to publicly funded facilities no matter your race, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation. 

Brian Davis

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