(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) joined Congresswomen Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and 58 House colleagues in sending a letter to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson strongly denouncing anti-LGBTQ changes made to the 2019 Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA). The NOFA is published each year and describes the grants available, on a competitive basis, to housing providers to support HUD initiatives.

The 2019 NOFA removes key incentives that promote the fair treatment of LGBTQ individuals, as well as nearly all mentions of the Housing First program. The Housing First approach emphasizes providing permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible without preconditions or barriers to entry. Changes that enable housing providers to add service participation requirements for people who are stably housed in Housing First programs will undoubtedly result in an increase in people experiencing homelessness and will open the door for discrimination. Secretary Carson himself has repeatedly expressed his support for the Housing First approach.

The NOFA also removes specific incentives for partnering with LGBTQ-serving organizations, and erases any mention of the 2016 Equal Access rule, which clarifies the 2012 Rule and its protections for transgender individuals seeking access to shelter in accordance with their gender identity.

“The Trump administration is engaged in a relentless campaign to attack the health and safety of LGBTQ Americans,” said Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton. “HUD’s actions to weaken housing and shelter protections pose a real—even deadly—threat to the LGBTQ community, particularly transgender individuals who are already subject to alarming rates of violence and abuse. These continued attacks on LGBTQ people are cruel and unacceptable, and do not reflect sound policy. Secretary Carson must reinstate HUD’s protections for this already vulnerable community.”

“The occupant of the White House and Secretary Carson are using HUD to advance their agenda of cruelty and discrimination,” said Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. “This move will only worsen the systemic inequities that force the LGBTQ community into homelessness—putting them at increased risk of physical and sexual violence. Secretary Carson must immediately abandon this hateful policy and end his department’s relentless attacks on the health, safety, and well-being of LGBTQ Americans.”

“Secretary Carson could not be any clearer in his disregard for the rights of LGBTQ people to have safe access to shelter and programs that respect—not reject—their identities. Research evidence already suggests that emergency shelters and other housing services regularly engage in discriminatory actions against transgender people. By removing community-level resources and introducing confusion about grantees’ obligations under the law, the Trump Administration is emboldening opponents of equality and enabling further harms against people already under siege in other key areas of life,” said Laura Durso, Vice President, LGBT Research and Communications Project, Center for American Progress.

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, one in three transgender individuals have experienced homelessness. 70% of transgender people who did seek shelter report being kicked out or were physically or sexually assaulted or faced another form of mistreatment because of their gender identity.

The changes to the 2019 NOFA comes shortly after HUD announced its intention to gut protections for transgender individuals seeking access to emergency shelter. HUD made its announcement in May, the day after Secretary Carson assured Congresswoman Wexton that he did not anticipate any changes to the Equal Access Rule while testifying before the House Financial Services Committee. 

Following Secretary Carson’s false testimony, Congresswoman Wexton called on the Secretary to resign from his Cabinet position, and introduced a bill to block HUD’s efforts to gut the Equal Access Rule and guarantee legal protections for transgender individuals seeking shelter. 

The letter is co-signed by Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Ed Case (D-HI), Kathy Castor (D-FL), David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Charlie Crist (D-FL), Susan Davis (D-CA), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Bill Foster (D-WI), Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Al Green (D-LA), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Deb Haaland (D-AZ), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Katie Hill (D-CA), Jim Himes (D-CT), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-GA), Joseph P. Kennedy, III (D-MA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Dan Kildee (D-MI), John B. Larson (D-CT), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Andy Levin (D-MI), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Adam Smith (D-WA), Darren Soto (D-FL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Lori Trahan (D-MA), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY).

The full text of the letter can be found here.