A transgender woman has taken to Twitter to start an important conversation about being homeless in America.
Heather Snow has been homeless on and off for the past six years, and for the last four months she has lived at a Salvation Army shelter in Portland, Oregon.
Snow decided to take to Twitter to express her frustrations with the charity about the conditions of the shelter, which houses around a 100 other homeless women.
She began the thread by pleading with her followers and others to not donate to the Salvation Army, before going on to explain why.
Snow, who became homeless due to issues with mental health and a back injury, wrote that she is often treated like she is “less than human” by staff at the shelter.
She has also faced prejudice from other women in the shelter because of her gender identity. Snow is not alone either, with one in five transgender people in the US have experience homelessness at some point in their lives.
In 2015, 7 in 10 transgender people who had stayed in a homeless shelter reported mistreatment because of their gender identity.
“I’ve seen cis women in here literally sit at a round table and conspire how to have trans women they don’t like thrown out of this place,” Snow wrote.
She explained that she had faced harsher punishments, having previously been banned from the shelter for 60 days because she “asked a woman a question out of turn”.
As well as being treated badly by staff and residents in the shelter, Snow insisted that the actual conditions of the building were not up to scratch.
The women are banned from keeping food, they have issues with possessions being stolen, there is mould in the showers and the building lacks proper ventilation.
Since Snow began tweeting under the handle @milknmuffins, thousands of people have shared their own experience of being homeless in America.
“I stayed at an SA shelter once too. I hat lots of issues with racism from staff and neglect. Along with the things you’ve listed,” one person wrote.
However, some people had more positive experiences, with one Twitter user writing that they had stayed at a Salvation Army shelter and”it was one of the best shelters I’ve stayed in”.
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The tweets have since been seen by Salvation Army who has reached out to Snow and tried to resolve issues that users have raised.
Snow said she was shocked by the incredible response because “it was the first time someone’s ever listened to me”.
Chelsea Bender, the program director for the Portland shelter, explained that there was issues that needed to be addressed concerning communication and building works.
“We’re trying to serve the most vulnerable populations and it can be risky territory,” Bender told BuzzFeed News.”We have a handful of staff who can be short and rigid and there was a history of escalation but we’re changing that.”
In a statement, the charity added that they were “thankful” to have met with Snow.
“We continually strive to service without discrimination. We want to ensure that people feel safe, cared for and heard in our shelters,” the organisation added.
Snow is overwhelmed by the outcome of the Twitter thread and that she thinks real change will be enacted in the Portland shelter.
She said: “I just don’t think they realise these are traumatised and often mentally troubled women. How they’re treated matters.
“I have a little hope, but it’s something. It’s more than I had before,” Snow added.