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The Human Services Department Announces Plan to Reduce LGBTQ Discrimination in the Homeless Response System

A plan to reduce discrimination and bias

The Human Services Department (HSD) is excited to announce a plan to reduce bias and discrimination in the homeless response system toward LGBTQ-identified people experiencing homelessness. The plan, created in partnership in with the Ingersoll Gender Center and the Pride Foundation, identifies thirteen goals to decrease discrimination in homeless services and ensure that people of all identities can access necessary services.  

Conversations between HSD, Ingersoll Gender Center and the Pride Foundation revealed that the most critical concerns of the LGBTQ community are access to and discrimination in emergency shelter. Based on this input, the plan begins with goals to improve emergency shelters and help them better serve LGBTQ clients. Lessons learned during this process will inform the improvements made to other services, like homelessness prevention and housing programs, in the homeless response system.

Centering people with lived experience

HSD contracted with Ingersoll during the Spring to conduct listening sessions with community members who have been impacted by the homeless response system to ensure that the action plan was tailored to address the service gaps in emergency shelter. Ingersoll developed a list of recommendations from these listening sessions and submitted the list to HSD to inform the creation of the action plan.

HSD convened a work group, consisting of city staff and community activists, to create the action plan and worked closely with the Seattle LGBTQ Commission.

Recognizing the City’s role in reducing discrimination and bias

In its role as a funder of the homeless response system, HSD influences how dollars are allocated and how contracts are managed with agencies that receive city funding. In recognition that these funding systems can perpetuate bias and discrimination, HSD staff members will increase their cultural competency for serving LGBTQ persons experiencing homelessness in order to work more effectively with homeless services agencies. This work has already begun. Ingersoll provided a Trans 101 cultural humility training to staff members this Spring. 

In addition, HSD reviewed the action plan and determined that several of the items are relevant not only to improving the homeless services system, but across the department in service of youth and families, people who experience gender-based violence, older adults, and adults with disabilities.  The goals that are relevant to all divisions in HSD include:

  • Changing contract language to recognize the new Washington State gender X marker on identification cards,
  • Working with LGBTQ communities to develop standard training for agencies in serving LGBTQ participants
  • Working with the LGBTQ community to develop an LGBTQ Equity assessment tool to utilize in program monitoring and funding processes

These items will be developed and implemented across these services.

Identified Goals

The Action Plan identifies thirteen goals to reduce discrimination toward LGTBQ-identified persons in the homeless response system. Work toward nine of these goals will begin in 2019, including:

  • Creating a regular practice of HSD engaging with the LGBTQ community to inform policy and practice;
  • Implementing an LGBTQ equity assessment in partnership with community;
  • Making shelters safe and affirming places for LGB, Transgender and non-binary persons;
  • Collecting relevant data on LGBTQ persons experiencing homelessness to inform policy and practice;
  • Requiring programs to utilize self-identified gender for all participants;
  • Providing for adequate training on serving LGBTQ participants related to gender identity, gender diversity and cultural humility;
  • Create a process to better address participant grievances and inform processes at a new Ombudsperson Office;
  • Create a partnership between HSD and the Seattle Office of Civil Rights (SOCR) to increase capacity to better serve LGBTQ community members; and
  • Develop a more LGBTQ affirming culture at HSD.

HSD looks forward to working with our community partners and system partners, King County and All Home, to fully develop and implement the action plan.

Grateful for our community partners

By Jason Johnson, Acting Director, Human Services Department

I’m thankful for Mayor Jenny Durkan’s support of the partnership between HSD and community members to address discriminatory practices in the homeless response system.

This plan would not have been possible without the advocacy of the Pride Foundation and the Ingersoll Gender Center and their hard work in gathering and listening to the input of community members who have experienced homelessness. I especially would like to thank Karter Booher, Leo Segovia and Gunner Scott from these organizations who served on the workgroup to develop the plan.

I’m proud of the HSD and SOCR city staff members who worked with community members to identify how city processes contribute to discrimination and bias and developed a plan to address and mitigate these issues.

In addition, I appreciate the public service of the members of the Seattle LGBTQ Commission, particularly Commissioner Manuel Venegas, and their participation in this process. I look forward to our continued partnership to make Seattle a place that serves all people experiencing homelessness equitably.