Woman Alleges Discrimination at Shelter

By Christine Cupaiuolo — May 21, 2007

Just a couple of days after we pointed to a New York Times story on the small-but-growing number of homeless shelters for gay youths, the Chicago Tribune has a story about a 27-year-old lesbian who alleges she was denied an available bed at a homeless shelter based on her sexual orientation.

Michelle Wang has filed complaints with city and state officials. A lawsuit is also expected.

Rev. Bud Ogle, a Presbyterian pastor who co-founded the Christian ministry that runs the New Life shelter in the North Howard Street area, told the Trib it was an inadvertent clerical error, not intentional discrimination. From the Tribune:

Ogle, who described himself as a lifelong ACLU member, said the shelter’s program manager had committed the last two beds to a family but failed to note that in a bed-count record. Relying on that record, another staffer thought the two beds were still available — until the manager alerted her otherwise in the midst of the interview of Wang. A short time later, the city was incorrectly told there were two beds open by a staffer still relying on the inaccurate bed count record, Ogle said.

But Ogle conceded he was relying on the word of the staffers and didn’t know for sure what happened.

“Some of our staff are less comfortable with homosexual, gay and lesbian folks than others are,” he said in an interview Friday outside his Good News Partners Ministry office at 1600 W. Jonquil Terrace. “Our policy as a ministry is to welcome every single person as a child of God.”

A recent report found an epidemic homeless problem among young lesbians and gays and cited incidents of anti-homosexual harassment at homeless shelters around the country. The study — issued in January by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Coalition for the Homeless — said one Michigan facility required that gay and lesbian youths wear orange jumpsuits to set them apart from others. Many lesbians and gays conceal their sexual orientation from homeless shelters to avoid “potential misunderstanding, abuse and rejection,” the study said.

Comments are closed.