Mayor London Breed (right) speaks before a ribbon-cutting for the first transgender and gender non-conforming transitional housing at 1033 Washington St., with Saint James Infirmary Executive Director Toni Newman (left) on Thursday Jan. 23, 2020. (Meyer Gorelick/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

First transitional housing project for homeless transgender residents opens in Chinatown

Project gives gender non-conforming a safe, supportive space to rebuild their lives

Mayor London Breed joined transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) community leaders huddled outside of a building on Washington St. Thursday, spilling on to the cable car tracks to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of The City’s first transitional housing designated for homeless gender non-conforming adults.

The project, a 13-unit apartment whose first tenant will be aspiring chef Jane Cordova, was spearheaded by the Our Trans Home SF coalition and its “mother,” Saint James Infirmary Executive Director Toni Newman.

It is being funded by a $2.3 million allocation from The City that will not only fund the transitional housing program over a two-year period but also to provide rent support for transgender and non-conforming people facing eviction and advocacy for institutional change.

“Homelessness is acutely an LGBTQ issue, particularly for trans and gender non-conforming folks,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin said.

Transgender people are 18 times more likely to experience homelessness, and one out of every two transgender people have been homeless.

Newman found herself homeless 22 years ago after making her transition despite having a BA from Wake Forest University. She knows first-hand the vitality housing support can provide homeless transgender people.

“I needed help,” Newman said. “Somebody did something like this for me 22 years ago and gave me a place. I got myself together, got into law school. I just needed a little help.”

She sees herself in Cordova, who will be the first tenant to benefit from the program. Cordova came to the United States from Mexico when she was 16. She is currently living in an LGBT adult shelter in the Mission and will move in February, according to The Bay Area Reporter.

Cordova loves cooking and plans to use this rent-free year and the wrap around services that all 13 of its residents will receive to get on her feet, start a culinary career and find a place to live.

While this home is a historic first step in providing housing and support for the TGNC community, Saint James Infirmary Board Member Joaquin Remora detailed broader goals during his time at the podium.

“Members of our community are constantly faced with unjust incarceration, poverty, as well as physical, institutional, and emotional violence,” Remora said. “Our transgender sisters of color are experiencing hate crimes and murder on a daily basis, and this continues to go unnoticed. Society must understand these issues as systemic symptoms of discrimination based on race and gender presentation.”

“By providing services that protect our community members, we are shifting the narrative away from being defined by our margins and barriers towards being defined by our successes and positive impact on the world,” Remora added.

Newman said that a prominent tech company, which she declined to name, is possibly coming on board to fund the opening of a second house. They will be taking a private tour of the units next week.

The Chinatown building is owned by a gay man and his partner, who wish to remain anonymous, and is being rented to Our Trans Home SF at a rate significantly below market value, according to The Bay Area Reporter.

The last of the 13 program residents should be moving in in March said Newman.

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Community members and leaders gather outside of The City’s first transitional housing project for homeless transgender and gender non-conforming residents. (Meyer Gorelick/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

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