Pandemic worsens housing crisis for trans women in Atlanta

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A new Atlanta non-profit placed more than 30 homeless transgender women in transitional housing and gave $108,000 to 150 other trans people across Georgia to help a community hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

But as colder weather approaches, resources are thin for organizations combatting homelessness among trans people.

“The need has always been present, but with the pandemic and everything closing, it definitely has exacerbated things [for trans people],” Jesse Pratt Lopez told Project Q Atlanta.

Lopez is founder and co-director of the Trans Housing Coalition. She created the non-profit in June with money from a crowdfunding campaign that’s raised nearly $2.9 million for Black trans women in Atlanta.

THC disbursed the $108,000 in grants in September. The grant applications illustrated the dire situation for many trans people in Georgia, according to Lopez.

“Ninety-two percent of folks needed the grant to pay rent,” she said. “Fifty percent of folks said they were either homeless or soon to be homeless.”

THC hired a full-time case manager to move homeless trans women into permanent housing. It also recently added a part-time case manager — Jayme Steger of Someone Cares, Inc.

Establishing sustainable change is a complicated, months-long process, Steger said.

“Right now, we have 33 young trans women that are being housed in five different hotels, three rooming houses and an Airbnb,” Steger said. “We are working with them to receive their IDs, detox and drug rehabilitation treatment, helping them get jobs and getting their documentation so that within six to 12 months, we can move them toward self-sufficiency.”

An additional 40 homeless trans women are on THC’s waiting list for housing, according to Steger.

Trans housing facility in College Park reaches capacity

Other transgender housing agencies are feeling the pressure as well. In July, Trans Housing Atlanta Program partnered with A Vision For Hope Foundation to open a facility for trans women in College Park. It has room for seven people to live rent-free for up to a year, but the facility is already full.

“I’m super concerned,” THAP program manager Justine Ingram told Project Q. “Already, I’m over 100 people. I’ll probably double the number of people I’ll provide assistance for this year, and I know that’s due to COVID.”

Beyond all-inclusive housing, THAP also typically helps 70 to 80 clients a year with utility and rental assistance. It has an ongoing capital campaign to raise $150,000 to fund efforts to help trans women.

The pandemic exacerbated the housing and employment issues many transgender people experience.

“They may be waiters or waitresses at small bars and clubs or drag performers, so when COVID-19 hit, they lost a lot of their wages,” Ingram said. “It was difficult to file for unemployment. The stories vary a lot differently than within the cis hetero community or the general homosexual community.”

The pandemic also “dramatically reduced” sex work, a key income source for many trans women in Atlanta, according to Lopez.

“For trans women who are denied jobs because of their identity, sex work is one of the few jobs that they are able to do,” Lopez said. “A lot of girls say it’s been harder to work and get clients because of the pandemic.”

Lopez, Steger and Ingram said that they will continue to pool resources to get through the crisis.

“Our plan moving forward is to alleviate chronic homelessness,” Lopez said. “in order to do that, we need to have sustainability. We’re focusing our energy on getting folks off the streets permanently.”

Pratt, Ingram and Taylor Alxndr, who is co-founder and executive director of Southern Fried Queer Pride, discussed their efforts to raise funds and provide safe spaces for trans people during a Q Conversations event in July.

This story is made possible by a grant from Facebook Journalism Project’s COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund.

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