Federal lawsuit filed on behalf of homeless trans woman

Federal lawsuit filed on behalf of homeless trans woman

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A Philadelphia trans woman contends she was wrongfully evicted from a Delaware County homeless shelter after complaining of alleged mistreatment due to her gender status.

From January until March of this year, “Jane Doe” resided at the Life Center of Eastern Delaware County, a homeless shelter in Upper Darby. Doe was evicted from the center on March 10 and hasn’t found stable housing since then, according to a federal lawsuit filed on her behalf Aug. 13.

The defendants are the shelter and Community Action Agency of Delaware County Inc., a business entity that operates the facility. Rufus A. Jennings, an attorney for the defendants, declined to comment for this story. Justin F. Robinette, an attorney for Doe, also declined to comment.

During her time at the shelter, Doe was housed in a sex-segregated male dorm despite being a trans woman, according to the suit. She wasn’t permitted to use a female restroom, and staffers repeatedly misgendered her on a daily basis. Moreover, Doe claims she was subjected to harassment by her male dorm mate, and she overheard anti-trans comments from other residents, according to the lawsuit.

When Doe complained of mistreatment, a shelter case worker said that if she had a problem, she was free go elsewhere for housing services, according to the lawsuit.

“After being evicted, [Doe] was forced to live on the street where she suffered 30-degree temperatures, and was eventually forced to take refuge in Suburban Station and Jefferson Station out of necessity. [Doe] was also physically attacked on the street after being rendered homeless,” the suit states.

Doe’s complaint alleges that her rights as a trans woman were violated under the federal Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit contends the shelter should have made reasonable accommodations for her disability — gender dysphoria — by granting her access to gender-appropriate facilities, including the female dorm and restrooms. Last year, a Pennsylvania court ruled that the ADA can cover gender dysphoria.

Doe now spends much of her time at the William Way LGBT Community Center in Center City, which doesn’t provide housing services and is closed during the overnight hours, according to the lawsuit.

Doe is requesting an unspecified amount in monetary damages and remedial measures at the shelter so that all trans residents are treated consistent with their gender identity. Doe has also requested a jury trial. As of presstime, Doe’s suit remained pending before U.S. District Judge Juan Sanchez.

The shelter has until Oct. 15 to file an answer to Doe’s allegations. 

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