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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Spotlight: Ali Forney Center Shelters Homeless LGBT Youth

In a heart wrenching feature on the Ali Forney Center, an LGBT youth homeless shelter in New York City, Al Jazeera America highlighted a young transgender woman named Lucina. When Lucina can’t stay at the Center, she survives homelessness by sitting at Starbucks and riding the subway all night. “I take the 1 train back and forth between the Bronx and lower Manhattan,” she said. “I do this until Starbucks reopens at 5:30.”

In January 2015, the Ali Forney Center was designated the nation’s first 24-hour drop-in center for homeless LGBTQ youth, allowing young people to use their services during the weekend and overnight. Their services include meals, shower facilities, HIV support and mental health services.

Ali Forney Center’s spotlight comes on the heels of new guidance by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). On February 20th, 2015, HUD Secretary Julián Castro released guidance instructing all federally-funded shelters nationwide that transgender people cannot be denied a bed because of their gender identity or expression.

National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) Executive Director Mara Keisling joined Al Jazeera America’s Primetime News broadcast to explain the guidance. Keisling said the guidance will “open up some spaces that may have been shut off to some LGBT folks all over the country.”

However, Keisling warned that more action is needed. While transgender people should now know that they have a right to access all facilities, the federal government must “amend the equal access rule on discrimination against transgender people,” Keisling said, so that “it is absolutely clear to every shelter in the country that discrimination is not acceptable and won’t be tolerated.”

The National Center for Transgender Equality celebrates this guidance and will continue to advocate the Department of Housing and Urban Development on ensuring safe shelters for transgender people nationwide. NCTE calls on HUD Secretary Julián Castro to expedite the process for updating the equal access rule.

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