Florence House, homeless women's shelter, sets best practices for trans women

As equality for transgender Americans has come into focus with mainstream media exposure, more and more stories of blatant institutional discrimination against trans people have surfaced. However, the actions of the directors and staff running Florence House, a homeless shelter for women in Maine, exemplify behavior that is both affirming of transgender individuals' identities and conscious of their needs.

According to the Portland Press Herald, two cisgender women at the shelter complained about two trans women residing there, relying on anti-trans stereotypes with their claim that trans women should be denied access to women's spaces, and especially shared facilities. However, Mark Swann, executive director of Preble Street (the organization which runs Florence House), has affirmed that the shelter does not make arbitrary distinctions between trans and cis women, saying, "We don't discriminate against anybody. We accept people at the shelter as they present themselves."

Florence House models its admissions policies regarding transgender women after Maine's human rights and anti-discrimination laws, which protect trans people in public accommodations and other essential areas. The shelter's in-practice policy is inclusive of all women.

Including trans women at Florence House ensures that its parent organization, Preble Street, provides necessary services to more people who depend on them. Director Swann added, "There are a pretty high percentage of people who are homeless because they are transgender... It's been really gratifying to see that in our programs people who are transgender have been very much accepted."

At a time when transgender people, particularly transgender people of color, face extremely high rates of homelessness, and more than half of homeless trans people report being harassed while trying to access a shelter, Florence House's policy creates important protections for transgender people from further discrimination. GLAAD urges more media outlets to report on homelessness among transgender people, and the need for policies that protect them.