March 9, 2017 10:05 pm
Updated: March 10, 2017 3:01 am

Concerns over transgender client at Okanagan shelter

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Two women are raising concerns about the latest person to move into a Kelowna homeless shelter for women.

“He wants to become a woman, I mean that is his choice but when a man comes into a women’s shelter who still has a penis and genitals he has more rights than we do.” Tracey said.

Tracey is upset that she was made to share a room with a transgender individual, a man transitioning to become a woman.

“They told me, sorry if a person identifies themselves with female, then we have to go with that.” Tracey said.

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Another client named Blaine was also staying at the shelter. She recently fled from an abusive relationship and says she’s uncomfortable with a transgender person staying at women’s only facility.

“Some women have had bad experiences with men so they are fleeing men and now we have a man living there,” Blaine said.

The shelter is run by the NOW Canada Society. While the organization declined an interview on the matter, it did issue the following statement to Global News.

“NOW Canada cannot speak to specific cases. It is against the law to discriminate against transgender individuals. NOW Canada and other shelters in Kelowna welcome people without regard to age, race, religion and gender identity.”

On Thursday morning, both Blaine and Tracey were asked to leave the shelter for good after speaking to the media and breaking the confidentiality agreement designed to protect the safety of all the clients. But now they say their safety has been compromised after being tossed out on the street.

“Hopefully we will stay safe,” Blaine said.

Despite being kicked out of the shelter, they don’t regret speaking out and fighting for their rights. But they say more needs to be done to help the transgender population too.

“We need to make a fine line between the distinction of male, female and transgender. I think it’s all three different groups,” Blaine said. “I feel bad for this person, they are transitioning but they need to be in a place where they can associate with other people like them.”

While everyone is just looking for a safe place to stay, it’s not as easy as it sounds. NOW Canada says its shelters don’t have enough space to allow transgender clients to have their own room and there are no shelters in the Okanagan designated specifically for transgender people.

It all means there are no quick or easy solutions in sight.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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