Homelessness is one of the many levels of oppression that transgender women face. Often times, black trans women trying to be homeless are forced to stay in abusive households and relationships, says Kayla Gore, the founder of My Sistaha’s House, an organization that works to help address the issue of homelessness for marginalized groups To alleviate construction of tiny homes. “Violence among black trans women is on the rise, especially because they don’t have access to safe, gender-sensitive homes,” Gore told House Beautiful. “Many transsexuals remain in domestic violence[-filled] Relationships because there are no organizations that [housing] to transsexuals. ”
This reality, coupled with the increasing anti-trans rhetoric resulting from recent disagreements, has made it difficult for many trans women of color to find housing. The Trump administration had refused to fully implement the 2012 equality rule, which mandated that accommodation “be open to all eligible individuals and families regardless of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status,” and even proposed a rule that “It would have enabled animal shelter programs and operators to subject transgender people to inappropriate and intrusive investigations, deny them accommodation and subject them to increased harassment,” a US Department press release said in April
Housing and urban development. (This proposal was eventually withdrawn in the Biden administration.)
About 42% of transgender people will experience some form of homelessness during their lifetime. according to the National Center for Transgender Equality’s 2015 US Transgender Survey, which interviewed 27,715 people to produce the report.
My Sishta’s House is one of the many black and trans-run non-profit organizations paving the way for home ownership in the trans community. Other organizations are the Chicago Brave Space Alliance and Sisters PGH, based in Pittsburgh. Together they stand against all odds, hoping that everyone in their community has a place to call home.
Tiny Homes present a bright future
Gore co-founded My Sistah’s House with co-founder Illyahnna Wattshall five years ago when they were working at an LGBTQ center in Memphis, Tennessee and noticed how many of their clients were homeless. The two began the effort by simply hosting trans women who needed their own personal space, and Gore tells HB that at the time she didn’t expect the organization to grow as big as it is today. My Sistah’s House has seen so much growth that they are now building 20 tiny homes for trans women in dire need of an apartment.
Why build small houses? Gore says she believes that creating small homes rather than traditional larger homes would be a more cost-effective way to alleviate the homelessness problem in the trans community. “We wanted to make a permanent decision about homelessness in our community and increase home ownership among blacks [trans] People by building tiny homes in a Community Land Trust “, She explains. But as she later found out, building a tiny house can be almost as expensive as building a traditional home.
Gore and members of My Sistah’s House outside a tiny house.
My sistah’s house
Having tremendous control over design is one thing Gore loves about building tiny houses. Planning is done with the approval of the Housing Justice Committee, along with the community members of My Sistah’s House. “Our members could move furniture, move walls, place windows in different rooms to see what kind of effect? [they’ll have]“Explains Gore. “Because they will be the residents, so we want them to be involved throughout the process [design] Process.”
Gore’s work on redesigning the living space has certainly not gone unnoticed. It was recently featured on a National Geographic series hosted by Gal Godot called Impact. And she reached $ 340,387 in donations through her GoFundMe page. But Gore knows this is just the beginning to find a permanent solution to homelessness in the transgender community.
The importance of black trans women in leadership positions
For founder LaSaia Wade of Brave Space Alliance, the first black and transsexual-run LGBTQ center on the South Side of Chicago, black trans women are long overdue to hold leadership positions. Before she founded the Brave Space Alliance in 2017, Wade had applied for various positions with organizations and non-profit organizations, but was rejected in the end. “I think they didn’t want to take the risk of hiring a smart tranny [Black] Woman, because they didn’t think I would allow them to run over me, which is true, ”she explains. “So I think it was essential for me to really work on creating a different power structure.”
The Brave Space Alliance now serves an average of 50 transgender and gender non-conformist people per day, providing them with food, resources, and other essential needs. Just last year, their pantries across Chicago helped feed over 200,000 people.
Wade herself experienced homelessness for a while in her life when she had no access to a homeless shelter that housed trans women. That made her hide her trans identity at the time. It was then that she realized that once she was back on her feet, she would do everything in her power to ensure that other trans women of color did not have to go through what she had experienced.
Brave Space Alliance members unveil a mural.
In 2023 the Brave Space Alliance will unveil the Lucy Hick Anderson Housing Program, named after one of the first documented black transgender women. The organization will buy two separate apartment complexes to facilitate the program. One will be reserved for housing transfemmes and transwomen, while the other will be reserved for transmasculins and transmen. The program is designed to provide LGBTQ + members aged 18 and over with access to stable housing and support in building their careers for a period of 18 months.
“[With this program] I hope to create a space in which trans people cannot hide their trans identities, but can push themselves forward as they wish. “ Wade says.
Generational wealth creation and home ownership in the trans community
Ciora Thomas founded Sisters PGH in 2013 after starting to reflect on her own experiences with homelessness, youth sex trafficking, and drug addiction. The Pittsburgh-based organization works to provide local trans- and non-binary people with resources on job opportunities, mental health and emergency shelter.
Thomas started Project T, a transitional housing program, in late 2020 after buying a property a year earlier. This program offers trans women suffering from chronic homelessness the chance of free housing with the expectation of finding employment in the first month after moving in. During the time they spend at Project T, they will be offered resources that will help them find a secure job, learn the basics of budgeting, and acquire cooking skills that will help them have a secure income and a secure life afterwards To create program. Thomas adds that the program is not just a temporary housing plan, it is something designed to increase home ownership rates for black trans women overall.
“I think the most important thing is that we create homeowners and inspire black trans women to become homeowners… It’s time to own our own land; It is time to own our apartments and create generational wealth for our community, “says Thomas vehemently.
Thomas and Project T members / tenants are painting a wheelchair access ramp that was recently added to the home.
Making progress in creating generational wealth in the black trans community is not an easy task. Especially when about 34 percent of black trans women make less than $ 10,000 a year, according to a report by the National LGBTQ Task Force. This is more than twice as common as transgender people of all races and 8 times as common as the general population.
Even so, Thomas believes she has the “blueprint” to make that change happen. “My blueprint has been worked out. and [Project T ] will have more homes in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And then we wanted to expand across the country through partnership initiatives, “she says.
She is currently working on enabling a program within Project T that will allow members to learn from real estate agents and financial advisors to give them tips on how to become a homeowner and how to improve their creditworthiness. Once they complete this mentoring and / or courses, she plans to help them raise funds to make a down payment for the home of their choice.
Thomas reflects on why it is so important for black trans women to have a home or a refugee place and says: “If one of us has a home, then we all have one”.
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