Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 11 / 15 March 2018

Trans woman faces eviction from SRO by SF city agency


Lucia Perez may be evicted from her single-room occupancy hotel room. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
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As San Francisco works to provide housing for LGBT homeless people and others, one transgender woman says she's afraid she'll soon be homeless because a city agency is working to evict her from her home.

Lucia Perez, 53, said the city's Homeless Outreach Team wants her to leave the Crystal Hotel, the Mission district single-room occupancy hotel where she's lived for two years.

"I was homeless prior to becoming one of the SF HOT Team's clients two years ago," Perez said in an email. "During these two years I had two major surgeries, one of them being sex reassignment surgery. SRS requires a trans woman to have to dilate her vagina for life. In my case, I need to dilate every other day. I need a safe, private space to do this procedure in."

She said staff from the HOT Team, which works to get people into permanent housing, among other goals, told her they need the room back by September 21 "because they need it for other people with 'more acute medical conditions.'"

Perez said she's "dead scared at the thought of being on the streets, losing my job, and being vulnerable to violence."

Her monthly $2,500 income from working as a cashier is "too high for qualifying for low-income housing," she said, and it's "too low to be able to afford housing in the Bay Area."

None of the city's homeless shelters "provide a safe space for trans women to dilate," she said, and she's lost all three apartment lotteries that she's participated in. When housing lotteries come up, priority is typically given to populations that she doesn't fit into, such as people who're over 55 and people who're living with HIV, she said.

In a phone interview, Perez said that she's been given referrals to other agencies so that she could look for help with housing, but "if I'm going to apply for other housing, it's going to be a long wait."

She has a list of emergency shelters, and she said, "I'm hoping that one of them will work for me while I look for more stable housing."

The HOT Team is a collaboration that includes the city's public health department, among other agencies. Approached through a health department spokesman, HOT Team staff didn't provide comment for this story.

"We couldn't comment on the specific case in any event because of privacy restrictions," health department spokesman Brent Andrew said in an email.

Willing to pay

A case manager with one organization told Perez that a HOT Team supervisor had said Perez makes too much money, and if she were unemployed or made less money she'd qualify for the room, she said. However, "that's not the reason they gave me when they told me about it," said Perez. "They told me they needed it because there are other people who have more acute medical conditions than I do."

She may be able to afford to pay up to $800 for an apartment if she has to leave the Crystal, but it's virtually impossible to find a similarly priced place in the area. She doesn't pay rent at the hotel, but she said she'd be willing to.

Before moving into the Crystal, Perez was homeless for "about a year." She mostly stayed in shelters but would sometimes stay with friends for a night or two.

The shelters are "horrible for somebody that has a job," she said. Among other problems, there's "very limited space, and it's always noisy."

"You come from work and you want to go somewhere where you can be with yourself and rest and relax," but "there's none of that at the shelter," said Perez. Plus, there are rules about when you have to be there, when you have to wake up, and when you have to leave for the day. There are "too many rules for somebody that works and comes in and out."

She said she's heard of Jazzie's Place, a 24-bed homeless shelter designed to be welcoming to LGBTs that's close to her hotel, but "I've never been there."

A program manager for Jazzie's Place didn't respond to a call about space available for dilation and the shelter's wait list.

Perez indicated her possible eviction isn't because she's broken any rules at the Crystal.

"It's very strict here," she said. "That's why it's very quiet and very controlled. ... If I were to get involved in any problems here I would have been out of here already, because they don't tolerate that."

A man who answered the phone at the Crystal said that only the hotel's owner, who wasn't available, could comment.

Jordan Davis, a trans woman who sits on the city's SRO Task Force and knows about Perez's situation, said in response to emailed questions, "The HOT Team needs to realize that gender confirmation surgery is a necessary and lifesaving intervention, and that vaginal dilation is a chronic need that requires that the client be able to stay in their placement until more long term or permanent options are identified." (Davis said that she wasn't speaking on behalf of the task force.)




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