A new policy document drafted by the Gender Centre and produced by the Women’s and Girls Emergency Centre (WAGEC) will aim to educate homelessness service providers on the specific issues facing the transgendered homeless.

WAGEC will this week begin distributing copies of its It’s Not Rocket Science policies and procedures guide for shelter staff in an effort to ensure equity and access to services by transgender clients.

The situation for homeless trans people is slowly improving, WAGEC service manager Lara Sabbadin explained, but there is still a way to go in educating shelter workers in particular on how to address and assist trans clients.

One of the biggest things I’ve noticed with inner city services is they’re scared to have a conversation around clients being transgender, she said.

We have a glossary of terms to try and educate mainstream services around different language, so they can recognise a transgender person as opposed to someone who is not legally recognised and the difference between a cross-dresser and an intersex person.

Sabbadin added that access to services remains a problem. Sydney has 86 crisis beds for women compared to 380 for men in the city, leaving women’s shelters in a difficult situation.

If you’re looking at the resources around access to women’s beds, there’s a quarter of the number of beds for women as there are for men. When you have increasing numbers of transgender women trying to access those beds, it really highlights how underresourced we are.

There’s a sizeable difference in the actual access, so a lot of the time there just aren’t the beds available to get them into a refuge.

The policies outlined in the document aren’t completely unheard-of in the sector, according to Sabbadin, but this document will provide an essential and accessible guide for workers.

There are points on procedures when a client is getting harassed or how to manage other clients who are saying -˜no, this is a man, he shouldn’t be in a women’s service’.

It’s also for workers who are having to address that kind of harassment from clients, which can be quite easy to just let go, because it’s challenging, particularly when the worker doesn’t feel confident in gender language.

The policies aren’t groundbreaking. They’re policies around equity and access and highlighting the challenges for transgender clients.

info: For more on the policy document and trans homelessness visit http://wagectransgenderproject.wordpress.com.

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