Legal Advocate Explains Why Homeless Shelters Are Tough For Transgender Kids

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Photo: nathalielaure/Flickr

While any homeless child or teenager is cause for concern, those who don’t conform to gender norms have it even tougher.We sat down on Wednesday with Lee Strock, the head of the Urban Justice centre’s Peter Cicchino Youth Project to find out just how difficult it is to be not only a homeless teen, but a gender-questioning homeless teen.

The Urban Justice centre handles issues related to discrimination and oppression and claims it defends “the rights of people who are overlooked or turned away by other organisations” from sex workers to street vendors to Iraqi refugees.

Modern society doesn’t have the means to “accommodate the needs of these people,” Strock said, referring to transgender individuals.

Those needs could be as simple as choosing a gender on an official form to as complicated as finding a safe place to sleep for the night.

“We see a lot of incidents where people experience violence at the hands of peers, family, anyone in life,” he said, explaining why these teenagers end up coming to the centre for advice.

But it’s not just family members. New York City homeless shelters are not the safest places, especially for anyone who doesn’t fit societal norms, Strock said.

“Our clients are generally more vulnerable,” he said.

While the centre doesn’t work on criminal cases, it handles everything from helping asylum-seeking immigrants find a home in the country to helping teens work with their legal aid attorneys.

The centre operates on a strict policy of confidentiality so they couldn’t tell us much about individual cases, but we did learn that Strock and his team often see lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals leave countries in Central and Latin America, as well as Africa, after experiencing discrimination.

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