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Democrats ask Carson, HUD to do more to protect LGBTQ people from housing discrimination

Nearly 30 Senators want HUD to restore resources that disappeared from website

A group of nearly 30 Senators want the Department of Housing and Urban Development to do more to protect LGBTQ people from housing discrimination.

In a letter sent this week to HUD Secretary Ben Carson, the Senators write that a number of resources that are designed help prevent discrimination against LGTBQ people have been removed from HUD’s website in the last few months – and they want those resources restored.

“It has come to our attention that the Department of Housing and Urban Development has, in recent months, either withdrawn or removed from its website at least six resources that were designed to help housing providers comply with HUD nondiscrimination rules that protect LGBTQ people,” the Senators write.

The letter is signed by 28 Senators, nearly all of whom are Democrats.

Joining Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev, in signing the letter are Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Chris Van Hollen, D-Md; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; Bob Casey, D-Pa; Tim Kaine, D-Va; Tom Carper, D-Del; Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH; Michael Bennet, D-Colo; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore; Cory Booker, D-NJ; Chris Murphy, D-Conn; Ben Cardin, D-Md; Bob Menendez, D- NJ; Ron Wyden, D-Ore; Angus King, I-Maine; Al Franken, D-Minn; Dick Durbin, D-Ill; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif; Chris Coons, D-Del; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI; Patty Murray, D-Wash; Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill; Kamala Harris, D-Calif; Maggie Hassan, D-NH; and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

According to the Senators, HUD removed a number of policies and tools from its website that were developed in consultation with direct service providers and subject matter experts to assist HUD's community partners in preventing housing discrimination.

The Senators write:

Namely, as we understand it, HUD has withdrawn: 

  • A proposed policy that would have required emergency shelters funded by HUD to hang a poster alerting residents of their right to be free from anti-LGBTQ discrimination; and
  • A proposed survey designed to evaluate the impact of the LGBTQ Youth Homelessness Prevention Initiative.

Further, as we understand it, HUD has removed from its website:

  • A guide instructing HUD grantees on how to ensure equal access for transgender people;
  • A self-assessment tool that allows shelters to evaluate how well they are doing in ensuring compliance with anti-discrimination regulations and best practices;
  • A “decision tree” guiding shelters on how well their outreach/engagement, assessment, referral, enrollment, unit/bed assignment and ongoing service provision practices were providing equal access to LGBTQ people; and
  • Training scenarios that help instruct providers on how best to deal with real-life situations that may arise in a manner that ensures equal protection.

“It is concerning that HUD apparently removed these tools from its website, which are meant to assist grantees in meeting their underlying obligations under the law,” the Senators write.

“Without these training resources, housing service providers will face additional challenges in trying to understand how best to meet the needs of their clients,” the Senators continue. “The guidance resources that were withdrawn or removed are critical to ensuring nondiscrimination rules are fully and faithfully implemented.”

According to the Senators, the removal of the resources from HUD’s website is “concerning given the unique housing challenges facing LGBTQ people across America.”

As the Senators note, LGBTQ people make up 40% of homeless youth, which means “efforts to undermine LGBTQ protections have a disproportionate impact on some of the most vulnerable young people in the country.”

Additionally, the Senators note that among adults, nearly 1 in 3 transgender people report having experienced homelessness at some point in their lives, but a 2015 study from the Center for American Progress found that only 30% of shelters were willing to properly accommodate transgender women, they said.

“We ask that you review these actions, describe precisely what evidence and facts justify these actions, and act promptly to restore resources to HUD’s website guiding providers on how to fulfill their nondiscrimination requirements under law,” the Senators conclude.

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