LOS ANGELES — A new program aims to help staff at homeless shelters better care for their LGBTQ+ clients.
Experts from the Equality California Institute have offered LGBTQ+ diversity, equity and inclusion training to medical professionals for six years. But now, they’ve expanded to include the staffs of programs that serve people who are homeless.
Zizi Bandera, program manager for Equality California, who teaches the one-hour program via Zoom, said the key is to place people in the housing where they feel most at ease.
“If you have someone that’s telling you they’re a transgender woman, she might feel more comfortable in a shelter with men, or she might feel more comfortable in a shelter with women,” Bandera explained. “So really, giving folks agency to decide where they feel most comfortable.”
The training teaches the correct terminology. Bandera pointed out it emphasizes the fact transgender people are not more “threatening” than anyone else, and are more likely to be victims of aggression.
Rene Evans, consultant for Only Kindness, Inc., a nonprofit that works on rapid rehousing in El Dorado County, said the program taught her staff not to avoid the topic of gender identity.
“Acknowledge it, recognize it, and let them know that you’re sensitive to it,” Evans outlined. “And that you will work with them in finding them the appropriate housing or services that they need, just gives them a little more confidence in the fact that we just want everyone to feel welcome.”
A study from the University of Chicago found LGBTQ+ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness.
Research from True Colors United estimates 7% of American youth identify as LGBTQ+, but make up 40% of people in their age group experiencing homelessness.