Reps. Pressley, Wexton Slam Carson’s Latest Attack on Transgender Americans

September 19, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) sent a letter, co-signed by 59 of their House colleagues, to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson strongly denouncing anti-LGBTQ changes made to the 2019 Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA).

“The occupant of the White House and Secretary Carson are using HUD to advance their agenda of cruelty and discrimination,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “This move will only worsen the systemic inequities that force the LGBTQ community into homelessness - putting them at increased risk of physical & sexual violence. Secretary Carson must immediately abandon this hateful policy and end his department’s relentless attacks on the health, safety, and well-being of LGBTQ Americans.”

“The Trump administration is engaged in a relentless campaign to attack the health and safety of LGBTQ Americans,” said Congresswoman Wexton. “HUD’s actions to weaken housing and shelter protections pose a real—even deadly—threat to the LGBTQ community, particularly transgender individuals, who are already subject to alarming rates of violence and abuse. These continued attacks on LGBTQ people are cruel and unacceptable, and do not reflect sound policy. Secretary Carson must reinstate HUD’s protections for this already vulnerable community.”

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, one-in-three transgender Americans have experienced homelessness and 70% of transgender people who did seek shelter report being kicked out, were physically or sexually assaulted, or faced another form of mistreatment because of their gender identity.

The 2019 NOFA removes key incentives that promote the fair treatment of LGBTQ individuals and nearly all mention of the Housing First program. The NOFA also removes specific incentives for partnering with LGBTQ-serving organizations and erases any mention of the 2016 Equal Access rule, which clarifies the 2012 Rule and protects the right of transgender individuals to access shelter in accordance with their gender identity.


“Secretary Carson could not be any clearer in his disregard for the right of LGBTQ people to have safe access to shelter and programs that respect – not reject – their identities. Research evidence already suggests that emergency shelters and other housing services regularly engage in discriminatory actions against transgender people. By removing community-level resources and introducing confusion about grantees’ obligations under the law, the Trump Administration is emboldening opponents of equality and enabling further harms against people already under siege in other key areas of life,” said Laura Durso, Vice President, LGBT Research and Communications Project, Center for American Progress.

The changes to the 2019 NOFA comes shortly after HUD announced its intention to gut protections for transgender individuals seeking access to emergency shelter.

HUD made its announcement in May, the day after Secretary Carson assured Congresswoman Wexton that he did not anticipate any changes to the Equal Access Rule while testifying before the House Financial Services Committee. Following Secretary Carson’s false testimony, Congresswomen Pressley and Wexton condemned his efforts to rollback essential protections for transgender Americans experiencing homelessness.

 

The letter is co-signed by Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Ed Case (D-HI), Kathy Castor (D-FL), David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Charlie Crist (D-FL), Susan Davis (D-CA), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Bill Foster (D-WI), Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Al Green (D-LA), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Deb Haaland (D-AZ), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Katie Hill (D-CA), Jim Himes (D-CT), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-GA), Joseph P. Kennedy, III (D-MA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Dan Kildee (D-MI), John B. Larson (D-CT), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Andy Levin (D-MI), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Adam Smith (D-WA), Darren Soto (D-FL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Lori Trahan (D-MA), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY).

 

The full text of the letter is below and can be found here

 

Dear Secretary Carson:

We write concerning the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Fiscal Year 2019 Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA). Specifically, we are alarmed by changes made to the Continuum of Care (CoC) Program competition which undermine the successful approach of Housing First and HUD’s historic commitment to effectively serve transgender people experiencing homelessness. These changes invite discrimination and could result in trans people being denied access to critical homeless services, forcing them to remain on the street and putting them at further risk of physical violence and abuse. We strongly urge you to immediately reinstate the 2018 provisions of the CoC program. 

Housing First

Housing First has proven to be effective in quickly and successfully connecting people experiencing homelessness to housing without preconditions or barriers to entry, such as service participation requirements. This proven, evidence-based approach empowers people experiencing homelessness to rebuild their lives while promoting the efficient use of taxpayer dollars. Studies such as HUD’s The Applicability of Housing First Models to Homeless Persons with Serious Mental Illness have confirmed these findings. As HUD Secretary, you have repeatedly expressed  your  support for the Housing First model, and recently stated before a crowd of nearly a thousand experts on homelessness that “the evidence then and now supports Housing First.”

Through the CoC Program competition, HUD incentivizes housing providers to adopt a Housing First model by awarding points for adhering to Housing First polices. However, these incentives were removed in the 2019 NOFA, as were nearly all mentions of Housing First. The move away from voluntary, client-centered services defies common sense and will inevitably result in an increase in people experiencing homelessness. We strongly urge HUD to continue to emphasize the successful Housing First approach with its core components intact and to reinstate incentives for following the Housing First model.

Transgender Americans Experiencing Homelessness

People experiencing unsheltered homelessness face many dangers and are three times more likely to die than people living in shelters. The most effective responses to helping people experiencing unsheltered homelessness are based on a commitment to using local networks to promote outreach to the most vulnerable populations and operate with few, if any, barriers to shelter entry other than those necessary for the health and safety of shelter staff and other residents. This is especially true for trans people and the LGBTQ community more broadly, who disproportionately experience homelessness compared to the general population due to discrimination, violence, and family rejection. Close to one in three transgender and gender non-binary individuals will experience homelessness at some point in their lives. The situation is even more dire for LGBTQ individuals of color, where nearly half report experiencing homelessness.

Unfortunately, the 2019 NOFA removes all prior mentions of LGBTQ people, including key incentives to promote effective services to transgender people experiencing homelessness. While incentives remain for adherence to the general 2012 Equal Access rule, the removal of any mention of the 2016 Equal Access rule, which clarifies that the 2012 rule protects the right of transgender individuals to access shelter in accordance with their gender identity, is striking. In testimony before the House Financial Services Committee on May 21, 2019, you denied under oath that the administration had plans to scrap the 2016 Equal Access rule. The next day, however, HUD announced that the agency plans to propose a new rule that would allow federally funded shelter providers to discriminate against trans people experiencing homelessness by denying them access to critical homeless services based on their gender identity. This proposal, combined with the fact that the 2019 NOFA does not make a single reference to LGBTQ individuals, leads us to believe that HUD either does not understand the challenges and dangers that homelessness poses to the LGBTQ community or is knowingly discriminating against these individuals. Given the disproportionate number of trans people experiencing homelessness and the very real dangers they face as targets of violence and abuse, HUD must continue to require that homeless services providers do not discriminate against trans individuals who are seeking shelter.

Again, we strongly oppose these actions and we urge HUD to immediately reinstate the 2018 NOFA provisions to protect all people experiencing homelessness.  

Sincerely,

 

 

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