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San Francisco Shelters Unwelcoming To Gays, Spanish Speakers


By Suzanne Manneh

June marks the 40th anniversary of San Francisco Gay Pride, but the city’s homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population is complaining they don't feel safe in the gay mecca's homeless shelters. But it’s not just the LGBT who feel there’s no room for them in the city’s shelters. If you are homeless and can only speak Spanish you might be out in the cold, too, reports bilingual weekly El Tecolote.
June marks the 40th anniversary of San Francisco Gay Pride, but the city’s homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population is complaining they don't feel safe in the gay mecca's homeless shelters. But it’s not just the LGBT who feel there’s no room for them in the city’s shelters. If you are homeless and can only speak Spanish you might be out in the cold, too, reports bilingual weekly El Tecolote.

District 9 Supervisor David Campos has been organizing a series of hearings about the problem and he has been getting an earful. Monolingual Spanish-speakers are more likely than English-speakers to sleep on the street because they are afraid of being asked for documents or just don’t want to deal with the language barrier. If you are Spanish-speaking and gay, that’s a double whammy. (If you are HIV positive make that a triple whammy).

Antonio Sanchez, a San Francisco resident for 14 years, told El Tecolote he would let young transgender and gay Latinos crash in his living room because he’d seen them called names and threatened at shelters.

“San Francisco is so liberal that it is sometimes amazing to think that my community has so much homophobia,” Rodrigo Ibenez of the AIDS Housing Alliance of San Francisco, who moved here from Mexico City a year and a half ago He told El Tecolote, “But we brought it from our countries and hold onto it.”

Could the solution be more bilingual services at the centers? Or separate dorms for gay, lesbian and transgender homeless? Either way, with an estimated 35,000 homeless, the city needs to find some answers. 



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