Transgender woman denied access to homeless shelter, sues and wins case

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A transgender woman, Lakiesha Washington, was denied access to the John L. Young for Women homeless shelter because of her gender identity. A D.C. Superior Court, under the ruling of Judge Geoffrey Alprin, mandated a temporary order which required the shelter to open its door to transgender women. 

The John L. Young for Women shelter is run by the New Hope Ministries and Washington sued them under the belief that she was discriminated against. 

Earline Budd is a D.C. Human Rights Commissioner, LGBT activist, and Treatment Adherence Specialist at the Transgender Health Empowerment, Inc. Budd, in an interview with 429Magazine, explained that Washington was humiliated in front of a room of 40 or so people when she walked into the shelter looking for a place to sleep.

The shelter questioned if Washington was a “boy or a girl” and then denied her access, Budd explained. “We don’t do transgenders here. You have to leave” reported D.C. Trans Coalition (DCTC).

A friend of Washington, also a social policy organizer at DC Trans Coalition, Andy Bowen, had been “talking with people from the community for a couple of months” about their experiences at shelters, Bowen said in an interview with 429Magazine.

After talking with the head of the of the John L. Young for Women shelter she learned that the shelter required, “…proof of their change of gender,” such as documentation of gender reassignment surgery or other legal documents.

The DCTC and the Transgender Health Empowerment center joined forces to help Washington. Led by DCTC representing lawyer, Jeffery Light, the case was settled with New Hope Ministries agreeing to allow transgender women to be admitted into their shelter.

Additionally, they have agreed to have their staff undergo a transgender sensitivity training which Earline Budd is expected to lead. “They will receive training and a certificate” on transgender sensitivity, said Budd. Also, improvements will be made regarding bathroom and shower facilities in order to protect the privacy of clients.

“It is a victory, and it is a large victory for this minority group” Budd said. However, she pointed out that, “it is often African American or Latino women facing this kind of discrimination…[Washington] will not be going back to this shelter,” Budd reported. 

Budd described that Washington was deeply humiliated from this experience, “she did suffer some real set backs from what happened” she said, and she is under the impression that Washington will be going back to the courts with a charge on mental health and humiliation. Budd concluded, “it is a victory, but I am still now waiting to see what the end result is going to be.”

Needless to say, this case sets a standard for other shelters. “This is a case that can be shown to other shelter operators to say, hey you can’t treat trans people like this.” Bowen continued, “it’s a legal victory, it’s a systemic victory and also a moral victory.”

429Magazine

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