As I have continued my evening prayer on the street corner I have learned more and more about systemic gaps. We have a good system, with a lot of good options to help people in need of safety or shelter. However, there are gaps. Places and times when there is a mismatch between available beds an people in need because at some point some policy wonk decided to place requirements on the the bed occupants.
It starts out well intended. Someone does a study and says we need more beds for single men, they are our largest population in need. They set out to make that happen, and their funders say sure we’ll help you house men… but only if they have male genitalia. The intention is safety, concern that a woman might be harmed in the shelter. That for their safety and our liability, we have to limit rape and molestation. That shower facilities are not mixed-gender friendly….its all so we’ll meaning. But good intentions don’t allow service providers to respond to critical needs. Like the day a transgender male-identifying person still physically with female genitalia presents.
Or when a cis-gendered woman presents?
And either of them is in danger of molestation on the street. But there are no beds for women, because we are hand-tied to a system unable to respond the the needs of the day. The person in front of us is in need, and in danger.
Another study says we need a domestic violence shelter, so we just our buys to create programs with those beds. But the transgendered male-identifying is in danger from the street, not from an intimate partner. They are on the street because the lost their job and got evicted. The cis-woman, does qualify based on a violent episode, but was also arrested. She pled out because she got poor legal advice and is disqualified because of the record.
So there are perfectly good beds, and really well meaning people, and yet two people remain on the street tonight because a policy says who may occupy the bed.
The road to safety and housing needs prayer, and the funders who mean well need prayer and discernment about their restrictions. How Lord may we include and qualify, rather than exclude and disqualify, so that we may truly love them and serve you within the them? Guide us. Amen.