Looking For A Safe Place

Check out Women’s eNews’ article from Sunday on the discrimination and abuses that transgendered people and lesbians endure in homeless shelters. It looks into the reasons behind these occurrences and the failure of the shelter system to provide gender-appropriate services.
Although the Department of Homeless Services insists that they work hard to ensure that people are respectful, it looks like individual shelters don’t play by the rules, says Jay Toole. Toole is a shelter inspector with the Coalition for the Homeless in New York and a community organizer for the Queers for Economic Justice network.
In the past, Toole lived in shelters herself. In her shelters, beatings and rape of lesbians by guards and other workers were common and continue to occur. Lesbian couples also face the discrimination of various forms of proof of interdependency that are required in order to stay in the same shelter (forms of proof that are easily acquired by a married couple).
Transgendered women in particular are in shit because they’re usually sent to men’s shelters, where they’re raped and beaten as well. Toole says the men just see them as “girly men” that need toughening up. Much of the time they also have to comply with standards of the men’s shelters by dressing as men, and are not given access to gender-appropriate health services as well.
The total number of people who enter the NYC shelter system on any night is about 36,000, which is a 75% increase from 1998. On top of that, the number of women in the shelter system has nearly doubled from 5,200 to 10,000 over the last 6 years.
And this is in New York. I can only imagine what goes on in other cities.

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