July 15, 2013

Transgender clients at Portland women's shelter draw complaints

But officials for Florence House say their policy is to accept people as they present themselves.

By Joe Lawlor jlawlor@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: Florence House

Do you believe Florence House, a homeless shelter for women in Portland, is right to allow transgender clients to stay there?

Yes

No

View Results

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Florence House, a homeless shelter for women at 190 Valley St. in Portland, is owned by Preble Street, a nonprofit organization.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

One of the women said the shelter is supposed to be a safe haven for women, who in many cases are leaving domestic violence situations.

"If you've been abused for 10 years by your boyfriend, do you really want to see a guy in the bathroom with you?" she said. "What worries me is that it's a way for them to gain access to a vulnerable group of women."

Swann, however, said many transgender people themselves have nowhere else to turn.

"There are a pretty high percentage of people who are homeless because they are transgender or have sexual identity issues. Many times, they've been kicked out of the house by their parents, or maybe by their landlord. It's a complicated issue," Swann said.

One of the women said that on the first night she was at Florence House a few weeks ago, she heard a deep, booming voice, and was surprised to see a person she believed to be a man entering the women's bathroom.

"I was brushing my teeth, and it was really startling to me," she said.

Swann said all the bathroom and shower stalls at Florence House have individual locks, and if shelter officials find out about any inappropriate behavior, that person is removed, regardless of the person's gender identity. 

Joe Lawlor can be reached at 791-6376 or at:

jlawlor@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @joelawlorph

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Today's poll: Florence House

Do you believe Florence House, a homeless shelter for women in Portland, is right to allow transgender clients to stay there?

Yes

No

View Results