Portland YWCA brings services to homeless transgender survivors

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality's "Injustice at Every Turn" survey, one-fifth of transgender respondents experienced homelessness due to their gender identity, and while seeking shelter, over half of respondents were harassed by shelter staff or residents. The YWCA of Greater Portland, Oregon, which provides direct services to the local community and advocates for social change, is working to change that with a program that addresses the needs of transgender people seeking shelter and housing services.

The Yolanda Project, which was designed with help from housing advocate Becky Beier a year ago, is a "shelter diversion" model program that pairs advocates with survivors of domestic violence to ensure that they find safe and stable housing, among other needs. The project is housed at the Gateway Center, which provides domestic violence services, in partnership with the YWCA, and has specific benefits for transgender survivors. Beier told the Advocate:

"I think when people have been hurt or rejected, as in a relationship with intimate partner violence, it makes them vulnerable to homelessness, because they start to see the world as one giant system where they don’t have a place. Being transgender and having experienced transphobia firsthand can magnify that. With the Yolanda Project, advocates help navigate areas, like housing, where there can be real discrimination for our clients, particularly transgender ones, and create an outcome where that isn’t true for them.”

After assessing the needs of survivors who come to the Yolanda Project, advocates arrange housing and work with landlords to ensure that stigma and discrimination, which can particularly affect transgender survivors looking for housing, are not an issue. Advocates also help with other areas of their clients' lives, such as securing employment, having their medical and mental health needs met, and helping them acquire new furniture and housewares.

Read more about the Yolanda Project at the YWCA of Portland from the Advocate.