NJ Human Services Partners with Rutgers and Hudson Pride Center to Provide Training to Social Service Agencies Aimed to Improve Access to Homeless Services for LGBTQI+ Community

Training Stems from NJ Transgender Equality Task Force Recommendation to Improve Delivery of Service to Transgender People & Other LGBTQI+ Members

July 27, 2021

(TRENTON)The Department of Human Services recently launched an anti-discrimination training program to educate social service providers in the state on the unique needs of the LGBTQI+ community, and help address any potential barriers that may discourage or deter LGBTQI+ individuals facing homelessness from seeking vital homelessness prevention services and supports.

The Division of Family Development is partnering with the Rutgers University-School of Social Work – Institute for Families (IFF) and Hudson Pride Center (HPC) to create and deliver the training to social service agencies, including homeless shelters and county boards of social services. The training is part of a larger initiative by the Murphy administration to improve access to services  for LGBTQI+ New Jerseyans.

“We are proud of this partnership and know that it will result in meaningful improvements in the way services are delivered to LGBTQI+ New Jerseyans facing homelessness,” said Acting Commissioner Sarah Adelman. “The Murphy administration has been focused on improving the quality of life of LGBTQI+ individuals and with this initiative we hope to create more welcoming and inclusive spaces for those seeking shelter and support.”

The anti-discrimination training was one of several recommendations issued by the Transgender Equality Task Force in its 2019 report. The task force, established by an act of the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Murphy, found that despite existing laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression, including transgender status, in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation, transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people still face persistent discrimination in these areas.

More than 300 social service staff from 66 organizations have received the ICARE (Inclusion, Courtesy, Awareness, Respect & Education) training since it began in June of this year during LGBTQI+ Pride Month.

The state prioritized shelter trainings after the US Transgender Survey (cited in the task force report) showed that a significant percentage of New Jersey respondents expressed avoiding staying in a shelter because they feared being mistreated as a transgender person. 

“It is important that LGBTQI+ individuals facing homelessness feel supported when they go to a shelter or any state agency for help,” said Deputy Commissioner Elisa Neira. “Providing staff with the knowledge and proper tools to effectively communicate with members of the LGBTQI+ community can help build trust, and ensure individuals who seek assistance will find an environment that is helpful, considerate and respectful.”

“Our partnership with DHS-DFD on the ICARE initiative represents an important step in helping social service providers throughout New Jersey become better informed about their work with the LGBTQ+ community. Increasing knowledge and practice skills on how to use pronouns and terminology appropriately, and approaching our work with an awareness of the fluidity of gender identity, can do so much to help people feel safe and supported. Individuals that identify as LGBTQ+ face discrimination on a regular basis, and if we can help staff become informed allies, we hope to improve the experiences of people that are seeking assistance. It is really all about fostering understanding and communicating respect from the moment someone walks in the door. We all deserve that, and it can establish a strong foundation when working with individuals that may be experiencing their greatest time of need,” said Adam Staats, Associate Program Manager for the ICARE initiative at Rutgers School of Social Works Institute of Families.

Individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ and experience homelessness may face discrimination and misunderstanding when accessing services. The complex and unique needs of sexual and gender minority folks demand flexible, tailored programming. Through this partnership, the bridge between what we know about serving LGBTQ+ individuals and how to implement culturally competent best practices has begun to be built. The ICARE initiative is a concrete strategy to improve care for the most vulnerable clients and we are proud to work with DHS-DFD and Rutgers to create these trainings,said Elizabeth Schedl, Executive Director of Hudson Pride Center.

The training covers a range of topics, including implicit bias; cultural humility; the basics of gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and intersex status and conditions; issues affecting the LGBTQI+ community; and the general rights and protections afforded by federal and state law to LGBTQI+ individuals.

The training is part of a 2-year $600,000 state investment to fund this initiative which began in fiscal year 2021 and will continue this fiscal year.