For homeless women escaping abuse, violence, and sex trafficking, the world can feel like a hopeless place with nowhere to turn.
Sure, there are homeless shelters where they can temporarily escape the Alaska weather, but most are co-ed. And for women who have been brutally victimized by men, sleeping or changing clothes in the same room as a man causes severe anxiety that makes it hard to breathe and impossible to rest.
Thankfully, in Anchorage, Alaska, these survivors do have a place where they can find hope: the Downtown Hope Center. This Christian non-profit keeps its shelter open to only women at night so that these survivors have a place where they can feel safe and begin to get their lives back.
Why would a government agency target a Christian women’s homeless shelter?
Because they turned away a man.
After an incident last January, the commission began investigating the Hope Center when a man who identifies as a woman asked for access to the overnight women’s shelter. This individual came to the Hope Center women’s shelter intoxicated and injured and so the shelter sent him to the hospital to get the care he needed, even paying for his taxi to get there. Yet, because the Hope Center did not just admit him to its women’s shelter, where he would have slept 3-5 feet from battered women, Anchorage came after them.
Given everything the Hope Center does for the community, you would think that the government would want to support its efforts, not harm them.
During the day, the Downtown Hope center offers job skills training, daily meals, laundry and shower services, and clothing for both homeless men and women. Its mission statement says, “inspired by the love of Jesus, we offer those in need support, shelter, sustenance, and skills to transform their lives.”
And indeed, it has transformed many lives. Over 160 volunteers each week offer 142,000 meals annually to those in need. It even offers programs like a culinary school and bakery where people can learn skills that can eventually earn them a good-paying job. And there are many success stories of people who have found work and housing of their own through the Hope Center.
It’s just that at night, the shelter is open to women only. And certainly we can all agree that the Hope Center has a duty to protect the vulnerable women using this shelter.
Unfortunately, the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission is now bending a law to force the Hope Center to house biological men alongside women in its overnight facility. The overnight shelter is a large room with cots separated by only a few feet. Allowing men to sleep in this facility with women who have survived abuse and trafficking should be unthinkable.
“The faith commitment is what motivates Downtown Hope Center and its duty to protect the vulnerable women it serves,” said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Kate Anderson. “It should go without saying, but protecting vulnerable women isn’t illegal; it’s something we should all support.”
The Commission wants to force a faith-based homeless shelter to get on board with its political agenda or shut its doors. But it is doing so at the expense of the most vulnerable members of its community.
Women escaping from abusive situations desperately need the hope, care, and safety the Downtown Hope Center provides them. That is why in November 2018, ADF asked a federal court to stop Anchorage officials from misapplying a law against the faith-based women’s shelter.
Oral arguments took place on January 11. Please keep the Hope Center, our attorneys, and this case in your prayers.
The City of Anchorage needs the Downtown Hope Center. It would be a shame if it chose politics over hope.