Local resources aim to address LGBTQ+ housing crisis 

Illustration by Sydney Smith

Over the last several years, Boise’s housing market has inflated consistently, creating a housing crisis. LGBTQ+ individuals are disproportionately impacted by housing costs, as they already face existing barriers to access to housing. 

LGBTQ+ individuals experience higher rates of homelessness than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. While currently there is no data on Idaho’s rates of homelessness for queer youth, national statistics show that LGBTQ+ youth experience homelessness at twice the rate of their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. 

However, other resources exist for LGBTQ+ individuals in Boise. 

Lestat Black is the founder of the Trans Housing Coalition, a local mutual aid group focusing on providing services for trans youth struggling to find housing.  
“We’re looking to build affordable sustainable housing and safer states for LGBT individuals, specifically, those fleeing states like Florida, Tennessee. However, currently, since we haven’t pulled in enough funds to do that yet, we’re just housing vulnerable LGBT individuals in the Boise area since that’s where we were started,” Black said. 

The Trans Housing Coalition was founded in April 2023. Today, the Trans Housing Coalition has helped five individuals find housing, and is currently helping 42 individuals relocate. 

“Right now, a couple people who are just associated with our project are helping house to people in the area who were about to go homeless,” Black said. “The plan is to build housing. And since we’re very new we’re still having to set up everything for that and we’re doing what we can in the meantime to help out.”

According to Black, the struggles to find housing go far beyond a lack of legal protections. 

“One of the struggles that individuals definitely face is just finding an area where people won’t treat you badly,” Black said. “The Boise area is a lot better than most other areas in Idaho. It’s still definitely has people that are not very welcoming, especially where I’m at in the Garden City area.”

Lestat said they themselves have struggled to find housing and have applied for housing but not been contacted despite meeting qualifications.

“They just would not respond and I’m not sure if that was because I’m transgender and that’s very noticeable on a lot of the documents I put in. But it just seems like overall, there’s a housing issue as is here in Idaho, and being [LGBTQ+],” Black said. “I think it is causing a lot of LGBT individuals to go homeless or have to be in very unsafe situations.”

The Trans Housing Project isn’t the only group seeking to aid LGBTQ+ individuals in finding secure housing as Boise State has resources available for LGBTQ+ students seeking housing. 

The Steve Nelson Memorial fund is a fund established to provide aid for students facing financial hardships due to coming out. According to Anna Moredhead, Associate Dean of Students for Student Interventions, the fund was established in 2015 when the Boise Pride Alliance approached the Dean of Students Office about establishing a fund to aid struggling LGBTQ+ students. The fund was being developed when Steven Nelson, an openly gay staff member at Boise State, was murdered April 29, 2016. 

“Those working to establish the hardship fund decided to name the fund in Steven’s memory,” Moereshaed wrote in an email to The Arbiter. “By fall 2016, the Pride Alliance had fundraised enough money to start offering this resource to students. DOS took on management of the fund, including processing applications and awarding eligible students.”

Since the funds establishment, 12 students have received assistance, averaging around two students per year. 

In addition to the Steve Nelson Memorial Fund, Boise State also has LGBTQ+ friendly housing for students. According to Lynda Tieck, while Boise has had gender neutral housing for several years, but the push for LGBTQ+ housing began when Sam Hardwood, a Resident Director for Chaffee Hall, wanted to incorporate gender neutral bathrooms.

“She was one that really pushed for Chaffee to be inclusive and for the bathrooms to be more gender neutral like that anyone would have access that lives in on their floor have access to either bathrooms,” Tieck said. “And so to have that flexibility in a hall like Chafee where it can be very gendered because of the gender bathrooms that was a big shift.”

Tieck said incorporating gender neutral bathrooms accommodates students regardless of where students are on their journey with their gender identity. 

“Often we see students who, when they fill out the application with their parents, they say this, but once they get here and they are more accepting of who they are, they may change how, how they identify,” Tieck said.

In the past there have been instances where students may try to use LGBTQ+ housing to live with their partners, even if they are not LGBTQ+. According to Tieck, when this happens they work with students to move them into the right housing and a couple instances like these are no reason to remove a great program.

Some students may also apply for gender-inclusive housing because they believe the waiting list is shorter, but change their mind once they have a better understanding of what gender inclusive housing looks like, and that they would have roommates of different genders.

“And we figured that out and we contacted folks as to like, do you really want this kind of housing? … In roommate matching, they’re like, ‘why are all these men, women in work roommate matching?’ They’re not just men or women, they are gender neutral and you know, like non-binary,” Tieck said. “And so then they want to be flipped back over to gender because they just thought it was an in or a shorter line into housing. So you know, so we are closing that gap.”

Over the years, the demand for gender-inclusive housing from students has increased.

“The rate of increase has been exponential where students are asking for gender inclusive housing. And I think there’s a variety of reasons for it, but we definitely have seen where it was like single digits to now, you know, almost triple digits of students who are requesting gender inclusive housing,” Tieck said.

According to Tieck, gender-inclusive housing is necessary to support students, no matter where they are in their journey of self discovery.

“It’s important for students to see that we value who they are, and they don’t need to choose … we want them to come as who they are, and explore that. I mean, college is exploring who you are and learning and expanding in whatever way that is. And gender is a part of that is your understanding … Why wouldn’t we do that with the things that they may or may not know about themselves?” Tieck said. “And so that matters, and it’s hard because [of] the way housing is. It’s been gendered for so long that we need to create some spaces where gender isn’t a part of it. And that’s a shift and a change, but it’s an important one.”

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