Transgender and Homeless Resources

A resource for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals who may be experiencing homelessness in New York City.

Cream, blue and pink banner with text that reads "Coalition for the Homeless; transgender and homeless; new resource guide".

The Coalition provides regular support and crisis services to individuals who identify as Transgender or Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC). The purpose of this page is to serve as a resource guide for individuals who may be facing or experiencing homelessness while informing our wider community of the often unknown obstacles TGNC people may be confronted with as they navigate the New York City shelter system.


This resource guide includes contributions from our Crisis Services team – the Coalition’s front-line staff, working daily with New York’s unhoused population.

There are several reasons someone might find themselves on the brink of homelessness in New York. An astronomically high cost of living, a severely lacking set of social systems in place to support low-income individuals, historically low housing vacancy rates, job loss, or family breakdown to name a few. In addition to these challenges, individuals who identify as TGNC have even more to overcome. The National Center for Transgender Equality states that family rejection, discrimination, and violence have contributed to a large number of transgender and other LGBQ-identified youth finding themselves homeless in the United States. Consisting of an estimated 20-40% of the more than 1.6 million homeless youth nationwide, many of these transgender youth come to New York City seeking a fresh start which sometimes includes receiving assistance from the Coalition.

Our Crisis Services team was asked several questions based on their years of experience serving homeless TGNC New Yorkers.


Q. What are some of the challenges people face being transgender and homeless in New York City?

A. Our clients who identify as transgender have shared with us that the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelter system, designed to require a gendered binary (e.g. that you choose a place that shelters women or one that shelters men), can be challenging given the range of gender identities and expressions. For transgender clients in the binary shelter system, especially those residing in shared living spaces, we often see that the attitudes of staff and other clients impinge on whether our clients feel safe and maintain equitable access to homeless services and facilities.

Despite everyone’s right to access services at a gendered shelter that aligns with their identity, there are very few options for non-binary clients and we see that these clients in particular are frequently misgendered. We also see LGBTQ+ families experiencing more difficulty obtaining shelter, as requirements for certain documentation proving their status as a family may be harder to secure. Similarly, difficulties arise when a family member’s preferred name differs from their birth name.


Q. What can a transgender person do if they are facing homelessness?

A. Finding an advocate and ally who knows the shelter system can be very valuable. There is now a wider range of options available for you than there have been in the past, although there is still a long way to go to truly meet everyone’s needs. An advocate can help you navigate what is a very complex system.

For youth up to the age of 25, there are a number of trans-affirming drop-in shelters. For those accessing the DHS shelter system, you have the right to stay in a shelter aligned with your self-determined gender. Marsha’s House exists for young adults in shelters who identify as LGBTQ+ and, thanks to the Lopez settlement, there are TGNC beds in five shelters that everyone should have the option to be considered for. Intake staff should move through a process to identify when someone needs a TGNC placement, but it may be helpful to make your identity known to the extent that it feels safe and comfortable. While this process takes place, you should have access to a smaller dormitory setting and if DHS cannot find a TGNC bed, they should work with you to identify an alternative. 

This is by no means sufficient and has taken significant effort by many advocates over many years to establish.


Q. What does the Coalition for the Homeless do to support transgender individuals who may be experiencing homelessness?

A. The Coalition understands that having rights and having access to those rights are not the same. Our Crisis Intervention Program exists to learn about each client’s needs and advocate for their best interests in the shelter system. For our transgender clients, this includes identifying the best shelter setting for each person, connecting our clients with other trans-affirming services, and being available to plan for and assist when problems arise, so we can discuss how to handle and advocate around those challenges together. We can also connect you with other Coalition services that might meet your needs.

As the court-appointed monitor of the DHS shelter system, the Coalition for the Homeless advocates for the rights of all individuals and families experiencing homelessness. This includes ensuring that the rights of LGBTQ+ people are protected when accessing shelter services, on an individual direct-advocacy level as well as through monitoring the implementation of policies established by court orders and various local, state, and federal laws and regulations.


Data about transgender homelessness

An infographic that reads "young adults between the ages of 18 - 25 experiencing homelessness: cis-gendered individuals at 12.5%, transgender individuals at 23%. There are two sliders that visually represent the increase.


A inforgraphic that reads "1 in 5 transgender individuals experience discrimination when it comes to housing. Sourced from the National Center for Transgender Equality. There are 5 figure gender non-conforming. Four a greyed out but one is in color (pink and blue).