The Covenant House location in Houston opened its doors on June 27, 1983 and has been around in the Montrose gayborhood for over 25 years. It claims on its website that it has counseled, mentored, educated, inspired, transformed, and healed thousands of lives.
Unless you happen to be transgender or intersex.
Covenant House was begun by a Franciscan priest back in 1969, and founded as an organization in New York City in 1972. Lady Gaga recently gave Covenant House a $20,000 donation for their work with LGBT youth, but judging by how they handle things in Houston, you'd be hard pressed to give them a passing grade for the way that Covenant House-Texas deals with Houston area transgender and intersex kids.
Over the last few years the anti-trans attitudes injected into the Vatican hierarchy by Father Urbano Navarrete and Dr. Paul McHugh are entrenching themselves in the Roman Catholic Church and trickling down to the flock and its faith based service organizations.
It seems that one of those service organizations that has been affected by the faith based transphobia is Covenant House Texas.
Cristan Williams, Executive Director of the Transgender Foundation for America and Houston City Councilmember Jolanda Jones have been disturbed about the ongoing reports of under 21 people who have attempted to access the services of Covenant House Texas.
They have either being turned away or if they are admitted, encounter less than respectful treatment.
One of the young trans people denied services by Covenant House Texas, Cinnamon (Kendrick) Perry, ended up a few days later on the Remembering Our Dead list. Perry was shot to death July 20, 2003 by someone in a passing car as she walked down the 1200 block of Lovett Street. The location where Perry died is tragically blocks from the Covenant House Texas facility located at 1100 Lovett St.
Perry told Cristan Williams before she was killed that 'They said they won't take people like me."
When Williams was investigating why Perry was denied admission, according to a post on the TFA website, Covenant House staff member Victor Hay explained to Cristan that the reason they withheld shelter services from an 18 year old HIV+ transgender person (Perry) was because Covenant House is a faith-based organization and as such, could not house transgender people for fear that 'the transgender person might snap and rape the biological women'.
That's unacceptable because Covenant House Texas gets federal funding via the Houston City Council, which means that some of the tax dollars trans Houstonians pay go to funding anti-trans and intersex discrimination
If you think it's just transpeeps who get no respect from Covenant House Texas, intersex people are also being rejected and disrespected by CHT staffers.
A meeting was held June 11, 2010 at Covenant House attended by Cristan, Darin Quintero, TFA Board of Directors Vice-President, Councilwoman Jolanda Jones and her aide, Houston Covenant House Director/CEO Ronda Robinson and Josephine Tittsworth with the NASW-TX GLBT Equity Committee.
It was called to address the concerns the Houston trans community had about this increasingly intolerable situation. Director Robinson admitted during this meeting that Covenant House has no policy whatsoever concerning protecting GLBT youth and that equal treatment is discretionary for staff.
Robinson also promised that by July 19, 2010 CHT would provide the Transgender Foundation of America (TFA) with Policies and Procedures as it applies to Intake, Assessment, Placement, and Discipline regarding transgender youth and a follow up meeting would be scheduled to discuss solutions to the ongoing discrimination problems at Covenant House Texas.
One month after the July 19 deadline passed, Councilmember Jones sent this letter to Director Robinson about the glacial paced response of Covenant House-Texas towards fulfilling the promises made to her and other attendees at the June meeting.
On November 24 Covenant House-Texas finally ended their stonewalling silence as board member Andrea N. Moore sent a message to Cristan asking for another meeting.
Councilmember Jones' response to Moore and Williams' e-mail exchange pretty much sums up our view as to how serious Covenant House Texas is in wishing to deal with this still festering situation.
Hello. I would love to meet with you. I am hopeful that you will be more productive than my meetings with Ms. Robinson, who made promises which have not been addressed and who has not answered follow-up communications. I would be lying to you if I said I was not disappointed in how the Covenant House has handled issues with the GLBT community, especially the transgender community.
While I appreciate your interest in investigating, I am concerned that that route is a bandaid rather than getting to the root of the problem. I am still waiting on a non-discriminatory policy by the CH. None has been given. This problem reminds me of what's going on with bullying in schools. The schools aren't acknowledging the problem yet children are killing themselves. Acknowledgment is the first real step to a meaningful and productive solution.
With that being said, I will have my Scheduler, Josaphine Bocardo, schedule a meeting. I also anticipate inviting Cristan Williams, who has worked long and hard on transgender rights.
Ultimately, I believe we are all created equal and all deserve to be treated equally.
The People (All People) Are The City,
Council Member Jolanda "Jo" Jones
And the e-mailed response from CHT boardmember and attorney Andrea Moore
Council Member Jones,
Thanks so much for your e-mail. I think that yours and my last e-mail to Ms. Williams may have just crossed paths.
While prior communications may have been less than you expected, I can assure you that Ronda Robinson's life focus has been to provide safe shelter and services for all young people.
To date, CHT has not adopted a GLBT specific policy as the organization's belief is that no individual served by CHT should ever be ill-treated, much less bullied or discriminated against. Frankly, it is my personal belief that any policy that defines the treatment that a specific defined group of individuals should receive, does more to segregate them than to emphasize that we are all created equal and deserve to be treated that way.
I look forward to meeting you and Ms. Williams and will look forward to Ms. Bocardo's call or e-mail.
Moore has to be kidding about this part of her e-mail to Councilmember Jones:
Frankly, it is my personal belief that any policy that defines the treatment that a specific defined group of individuals should receive, does more to segregate them than to emphasize that we are all created equal and deserve to be treated that way.
Since 2003 CHT has shown a blatant disregard for the welfare of trans and LGB children. The lack of a policy has contributed to that culture of disrespect and possibly led to the death of a transperson. It's past time for Covenant House-Texas to create a policy with specific non-discrimination language applicable to TBLG people. It also needs to have enforcement teeth that spells out a range of punishment for violations of it up to and including termination.
There is definitely a transphobic stench emanating from the Houston Covenant House branch that needs to be disinfected and cleaned up. The National Association of Social Workers, the Houston trans community, Cristan Williams, Councilmember Jones and myself are more than fed up with the foot dragging and obfuscation going on.
We're demanding nothing less than Covenant House Texas simply treat all children they house in their facility with dignity and respect. As long as they are accepting funding from the city of Houston, some of which comes from the taxes trans Houstonians pay, they are obligated to write nondiscrimination of transpeople into their policies and follow them with no excuses and no more delays..
The question is at this juncture is will Covenant House Texas actually do so?