The John L. Young Women’s Shelter is located three blocks from the US Capitol. The shelter is operated by New Hope Ministries, Inc of Woodbridge, VA. Not surprisingly the shelter is operated under a city-funded contract. And in the District of Columbia that usually means federal money is involved somewhere along the line.
A lawsuit was filed against the shelter on April 5 and a complaint was filed with the DC Office of Human Rights on March 22 by two transgender women who charge that employees of the shelter said they could not be admitted because of their transgender status.
An attorney with the DC Trans Coalition filed the lawsuit on behalf of Lakiesha Washington, a homeless woman who attempted to spend the night in the shelter on April 3. The lawsuit says at that time a discriminatory act took place.
A female employee at the shelter asked Washington, “Are you a woman or a man?” Washington replied, “I am a transgender woman.” The employee asked Washington if she had any documentation (presumably a court ordered legal name change or proof of gender reassignment surgery) and Washington said that she did not. The employee then told Washington,
In a separate complaint, DC Trans Coalition member Andy Bowen says a shelter employee provided details when Bowen asked for the shelter’s policy in February.
The respondent stated that I would need to provide proof of a sex change. When I asked what would constitute proof, respondent answered that I would need to furnish documents of a name change or proof of surgery.
Bowen said she initiated the phone call when she learned that the shelter had “a history of turning away transgender women.”
John Shetterly, executive director of New Hope Ministries, said on Monday that he was looking into the allegations and would be able to provide an assessment of the shelter’s actions in a few days.
The lawsuit states that Sterling Washington, director of the mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs contacted Shetterly via telephone on March 18 with reports that the shelter was refusing services to transgender women.
Washington told Shetterly that such action was in violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act which bans discrimination based on many criteria, including gender identity and expression.
Nevertheless, Mr. Shetterly did not take action to bring John L. Young into compliance with the law, and Ms. Washington suffered injury as a result.
The suit calls on the court to “[t]emporarily, preliminarily, and permanently enjoin defendant…from continuing to discriminate against transgender women.” It also asks the court to order New Hope Ministries to pay a civil penalty into the city’s genderal fund and grant the plaintiff attorney’s fees and other legal expenses. A hearing was scheduled for today to consider a motion for a temporary restraining order to enjoin the Young Shelter from refusing admission to transgender women until the case is resolved.
Elliot Imse, a spokesperson for the D.C. Office of Human Rights, said the office would have to make a legal determination on whether New Hope Ministries is exempt from the Human Rights Act based on its religious status before the office can begin to review the case on the merits.
The most recent IRS 990 report, which is a form available to the public, reveals that New Hope Ministries claimed $1.25 million in revenue and said it had $918,015 in expenses. The vast majority of its revenue ($817,509) came from “government grants.” The form does not reveal the dollar amount for the Young Shelter grant.