For many TGNCI people, especially low-income TGNCI people of color, access to housing is a road filled with oppressions and phobias, disproportionately leaving TGNCI people of color homeless or not stably housed. For those in our communities who are homeless or not housed in a consistent, stable way, this weekend may be very treacherous. SRLP is sharing these Know Your Rights materials in the hopes that it can make this weekend a bit easier and safer for those we love.
Working with Know Your Rights materials can be very difficult. You are advocating for yourself and others against systems that often don’t want TGNCI people of color to be raising their voices. Here are some tips from SRLP members, organizers, and attorneys on how to effectively use Know Your Rights materials:
- If possible, print and carry these Directives with you. Sadly, the way power and privilege work, many people will take you more seriously with an official paper. While that’s a structure we want to dismantle, your safety comes first
- If a food bank, shelter, transit, or other employee isn’t hearing you, ask to speak to their manager, and if that doesn’t succeed, ask to lodge a complaint with 311
- Remember that any public accommodation in NYC is required to abide by the NYC’s Commission on Human Rights standards on gender non-discrimination. This means that employees and security should respect your name, pronouns, and right to access a bathroom or other gender-segregated spaces
Know Your Rights in Emergency Shelter
SRLP has published a list of shelters in the NYC area and Coalition for the Homeless also has a list of emergency shelters . While emergency shelters may be over-crowded in the winter weather, NYC has an obligation to house anyone seeking shelter. You should not be turned away. If you are turned away, you can call 311.
Gender Identity: Transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex people have the right to access the shelter of their choosing. At this time, NYC Department of Homeless Services only offers “male” and “female” emergency shelters (once you are in an emergency shelter, you may be able to be moved to a multi-gender shelter at a later time). Some private shelters do offer multi-gender or transgender specific housing, but these are generally not emergency shelters. Policy 06-1-31 from the NYC Department of Homeless Services establishes this right.
- Your gender self-identity is what matters; shelter staff may not use your legal documents or presentation to keep you from your housing of choice
- Upon request, you can ask to sleep in a “safer” area. Keep in mind “safer” generally means closer to the night staff desk, which may not be safer for your needs
In addition, NYC Shelters must comply with NYC’s Commission on Human Rights protections for transgender, gender non-conforming and intersex people. Shelter staff and security must use the right name and pronoun for you and you cannot be discriminated against because of your gender identity or presentation. This includes being able to use the right bathroom.
Extreme Cold: It’s possible that it will be so cold that a “Cold Blue” will be called. A Code Blue happens when either the temperature is below 32 degrees; the wind-chill is below 0 degrees; there are ice storms or freezing rain; or there is more than 6 inches of snow. When this happens:
- Drop in centers are required to take as many clients as possible, within the Department of Buildings restrictions for the night that there is a Code Blue
- Anyone in need of a place to go can walk into single adult or family shelters, without undergoing the normal intake or eligibility procedures for the night that there is a Code Blue
- If you have been assigned a specific shelter, for that night you may access any shelter, not just the assigned shelter for the night that there is a Code Blue
- The City attempts to provide mobile heating vans or center
- No shelter suspensions or sanctions can be carried out on these dates – clients who have been sanctioned can return to the shelter for the night that there is a Code Blue
General Shelter Rights: Coalition for the Homeless has also made this PDF of your Rights in an emergency shelter. They include:
- You have a legal right to emergency shelter if you have nowhere else to stay
- Shelter staff can only enforce rules that are set out in writing and clearly posted. You cannot be disciplined except for violation of the established shelter rules
- You have the right to organize and meet with other shelter residents, to voice complaints, and to advocate for changes in the shelter without any interference from the City. Any retaliation against you because of those activities, including transferring you to another shelter, is illegal
Find Your Local Food Pantry
You have the right to access a public food pantry without questions. You can find a local food pantry using the Food Bank for NYC Website.
Public Food Pantries – like all public accommodations in NYC – must comply with NYC’s Commission on Human Rights protections for transgender, gender non-conforming and intersex people; you cannot be discriminated against because of your gender identity or presentation. This includes being able to use the right bathroom or dressing as you wish when using the pantry. Individuals working at the pantry must also use the right name and pronoun for you.
Remember you can always reach out to:
Sylvia Rivera Law Project
147 W 24th St., 5th Floor
New York, NY 10011
212-337-8550 x308 (legal helpline)
or info [at] srlp.org
Coalition for the Homeless
129 Fulton St.
New York, NY 10038
Crisis Intervention walk-in hours begin at 9am Monday-Friday