Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan spoke about the need to prevent homelessness among LGBT Americans at a White House conference on the issue in Detroit earlier on Friday.
Donovan cited Michelle DeShane, a lesbian woman who wanted to add her partner Mitch, a transgender man, to her public housing voucher. The DeShanes’ local housing authority denied the request because the couple did not comply with its definition of family. The agency referred the DeShanes to a neighboring housing authority that “accepts everyone—even Martians.”
“That’s just wrong,” said Donovan. “No one should be subject to that kind of treatment or denied access to housing assistance because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Donovan announced at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s annual Creating Change conference in Baltimore in late January that HUD would codify a proposed rule that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in federal housing programs—the regulation took effect earlier this week. HUD also hosted the first-ever federal summit on housing for LGBT elders in Washington, D.C., last December.
In his speech, Donovan also cited one study that found that 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT. The secretary said half of these young people are homeless because either their parents threw them out of their homes or their communities ostracized them because of their gender identity or expression.
“At a time in life when most young people are worried about which college they’re going to go to, what their first job might look like or what opportunities might exist once they graduate from high school, thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teenagers are worried about something far more basic… where they might be able to sleep that night—and whether they’ll be safe once they get there,” said Donovan.
The Detroit conference is the second in a series of LGBT-specific gatherings that the White House will host across the country in the coming months.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry and HHS Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee were among those who attended the first conference that took place last month in Philadelphia.