Just one week after the Trump Administration announced it was considering defunding shelters that accept unhoused transgender and gender non-conforming people, Mayor London Breed allocated $3 million of the upcoming annual budget to directly serve that population. Two-thirds of that budget will go specifically toward providing housing subsidies for up to 75 households to help to prevent evictions and homelessness, and another million will go toward existing services, such as programs that support homeless LGBTQ youth.
The budget allocation comes after a request was filed by the Mayor’s Office of Transgender Initiatives last month, highlighting the myriad ways that San Francisco is leaving our transgender communities behind during the housing crisis. It’s estimated that transgender and gender nonconforming individuals are 18 times more likely to experience homelessness than their peers.
“One out of two transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) San Franciscans have experienced homelessness, and that is a crisis,” says Clair Farley, director of the office. “When TGNC San Franciscans do experience homelessness, there are no safe places for us to go. In San Francisco, we are steadfast in our commitment to end trans homelessness and won’t rest until everyone has a safe place to call home.”
While this investment is an important step forward, there’s no magic wand to wave to fix the existing crises for this underserved community, who face hurdles at every level of care. City housing workers and staff are notoriously undereducated when it comes to trans-competent care, IDs with genders and names that don’t match peoples’ choices can disrupt access to services, and even the seemingly-simple choice about which gendered room to enter in a shelter — men’s or women’s — can be a terrifying and often dangerous decision. As part of the effort to create safer spaces for trans folk, part of the mayor’s budget will go toward hiring a new staff member at the Office of Transgender Initiatives to specifically handle trans-competent training for city employees.
San Francisco has long been a refuge for queer and transgender people nationwide, who are often fleeing dangerous situations for a city that will accept them — even if it can’t house them. For many, that sacrifice is worth it.
“During my homeless episode, it was trying to decide whether I would go back to Florida where I don’t have a community or access to living an authentic life, or deciding to make it work here, which meant picking bread off of trash cans and doing different types of hustles to survive,” Shane Zaldivar, a member of the city’s Transgender Advisory Committee, told SF Weekly last month. “I’m glad I did, because I’m lucky enough now to have a place.”