Put on your active citizen hat because the Department of Housing and Urban Development is seeking public comments on a proposed rule.
First, a little background.
In October 2016, HUD published a final rule, "Equal Access in Accordance with an Individual's Gender Identity in Community Planning and Development Programs."
It ensures people have equal access to HUD programs and shelters funded by HUD's Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD) regardless of their gender identity. It's actually an expansion of a 2012 rule that provided equal access to shelters and programs regardless of sexual orientation.
Sounds good so far, right?
A person walking by an East Harlem public housing complex. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.
The rule is great but only if people — especially those seeking emergency shelter or resources — know it exists.
As part of the rule, HUD is proposing owners and operators of CPD-funded buildings, housing units, and shelters post this rule in public places in their facilities (like bulletin boards and in the lobby) where people can see it. HUD would provide the content of the notice and the owners would just have to print it out and post it. HUD estimates the task will take six minutes.
Just print and post. That's what HUD is suggesting. Photo by Newburyport Public Library/Flickr.
Here's where all of us come in. HUD is seeking public comment on four things:
1. Whether the printout is necessary and useful.
2. Whether the six-minute estimate is accurate.
3. How to improve the quality, usefulness, or clarity of the document.
4. How to minimize the burden on people required to print out the document.
If you believe it's a good idea for HUD shelters and housing units to post this information, you can submit your comments electronically or by mail until Feb. 23, 2017.
Think giving feedback on something like this is trivial and unnecessary? Ask the genderqueer teen living on the streets who needs a place to crash and doesn't know if they're welcome at a local emergency shelter. Ask the transgender woman who was worried she'd be denied access to a home-buying program.
It may seem small, but to the individuals and families looking for resources and reassurance, it's significant.
Homeless grandmother Valencia Terrell arrives with her grandchild to stay temporarily at a friend's home in Atlantic City in 2015. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.
More comments and feedback on the issues and proposed policies let the administration know we are paying attention.
This is only the first week of the new administration, and President Trump and his team have set several potentially devastating plans into motion. There's the unsanctioned gag order at the USDA, the devastating executive action prohibiting U.S. aid groups from funding NGOs that advise on or provide abortions, revival of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, not the mention the promise to begin moving on his border wall.
President Donald Trump signs one of five executive orders related to the oil pipeline industry. Photo by Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images.
You may not have the time or emotional energy to respond to every issue or proposal and that's OK.
With so much going on, it's easy to get discouraged and zone out. We have to persist. When we stop speaking up, reading, or getting involved, the administration's decisions go ignored and unchecked. There's just too much at stake to risk that.
Pick your issue: write a comment, make a call, attend a town hall, send a letter. Let Congress and Trump know you won't be silenced, bullied, or ignored. They work for us, and it's time they get a reminder.
People listen at a town hall meeting on Latin American and immigration policy in Los Angeles. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.