Stephen

Charlottesville, VA

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My name is Stephen. I am a chaplain and the executive director of The Haven, and I support nondiscrimination protections for transgender Virginians. I was pursuing chaplaincy in Vancouver when I first started working with people experiencing homelessness. When I moved to Charlottesville in 2006, I found myself, once again, drawn to working with this population of people. I began working at the Haven as the day shelter manager.

 

In this line of work, I’ve learned that people don’t become homeless because they run out of money; people become homeless because they run out of relationships. Nondiscrimination protections say, “You are a part of this community. You are deserving of connection and respect.” Without those kinds of protections, transgender people are limited and put even more at risk. I have seen firsthand the freedom and comfort that housing can bring for a trans person. I worked with someone who everyone called “Cowboy.” Cowboy presented as gruff, grizzled, and masculine, which is a common survival strategy for someone living on the street. The Haven found housing for Cowboy and she was finally able to live as her true self: Allison.

 

The Haven is dedicated to eliminating homelessness in the greater Charlottesville area. We have been able to find housing for people like Allison because of the relationships we’ve build in our community. While we are glad to do the work we do, people shouldn’t have to depend on organizations like ours for their basic needs. Nondiscrimination protections would broadly increase access to housing and help more people like Allison to be able to live freely as they are. I support nondiscrimination protections in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

 

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.