Three years ago today, HPRP and other members of the Transgender Action Group (TAG) hit the streets of Baltimore from 11 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. as part of a new bi-weekly effort to connect transgender women engaged in commercial sex work to legal services, safer sex materials, and health and housing resources. In the coalition’s words:
TAG is a diverse, grassroots coalition of transgender and cisgender individuals, nonprofits, public agencies, and coalitions dedicated to developing relationships with members of Baltimore’s community of transgender sex-workers. We welcome each individual reached, without judgment or paternalism, into this coalition, always seeking to foster TAG as a community-driven project. Our primary goal is to meet members of this community where they are, with compassion and positive affirmation of the humanity, dignity and innate value of each individual. We strive to engage and encourage those who seek help and those seeking to help.
HPRP joined TAG as a founding member because transgender women – particularly transgender women of color – are often denied access to housing, employment, public assistance, and other vital resources due to discrimination and oppression based on various intersecting aspects of their identities. They are at disproportionate risk of homelessness and also among the least likely to utilize mainstream services.
“We knew that HPRP wasn’t reaching this group at emergency shelters or our other community-based intake sites during regular working hours,” said Antonia Fasanelli, HPRP’s Executive Director. “When FreeState Legal Project asked us to join it and other strong partners who wanted to better serve the transgender community, we were delighted to participate. Through a combination of street outreach and an on-site legal clinic late at night, TAG has opened the door to access to justice for transgender persons and we are honored to be a part of that effort.”
Through TAG, HPRP has represented many clients in criminal record expungement matters, often resulting in the removal of years of charges or even a completely clean record. “Engaging in sex work to pay rent and meet other basic needs inevitably leads to a criminal record that creates even more barriers to housing and employment, which in turn makes it more difficult to move on from sex work if you want to,” said Michelle Madaio, HPRP Public Benefits Attorney. “HPRP’s expungement legal services support our TAG clients in achieving the lives that they seek.”
HPRP is grateful to the transgender women we have come to know through TAG, and to our coalition partners for sustaining this effort for the past three years and into the future, continuing to work together toward a time when it is no longer needed.
—Ingrid Löfgren, Director of Homeless Youth Initiative