Project HOME: Providing Safety and Support for LGBTQ+ Homeless Youth
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LGBTQ+ young adults throughout the country are facing discrimination at alarming new rates. One of the most urgent and distressing facets of this crisis is LGBTQ+ youth homelessness.
Research from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago discovered that “LGBTQ youth are at more than double the risk of homelessness compared to non-LGBTQ peers.” The study also found that this already vulnerable population “reported higher rates of trauma and adversity, including twice the rate of early death.”
A study from UCLA found that some of the key causes driving homelessness among the LGBTQ+ young adult population were familial rejection and forcible ejection from the home, abuse at home, aging out of foster care, and neglect.
“We’ve experienced a similar crisis here in Philadelphia,” says Annette Jeffrey, the Vice President of Development and Communications for the nonprofit Project HOME. The city currently estimates its homeless population to be around 5,700. Over the city’s 2020 fiscal year it served, in partnership with nonprofits like Project HOME, a total of nearly 20,000 people with services like emergency shelter, transitional housing and rapid rehousing.
Established in 1989, Project HOME focuses on offering permanent, subsidized housing, as well as providing comprehensive services and outreach for the thousands of individuals and families in the region who have experienced homelessness. “Our mission is to end, and prevent, chronic street homelessness in Philadelphia,” Jeffrey says.
Because so many LGBTQ+ young adults were in need a safe and supportive environment in Philadelphia, Project HOME developed and opened the Gloria Casarez Residence in 2018, an affordable, LGBTQ+ friendly housing complex.
Located in North Philadelphia’s Ludlow neighborhood, the Gloria Casarez Residence (named after the late, local LGBT rights activist) has 30 living spaces available to homeless, formerly homeless, or at-risk individuals aged 18-23. Like all Project HOME facilities, the residence also provides amenities like storage, outdoor space, a computer lab, a gym and a community room, but it is the community and support residents have access to that sets the space apart.
“Oftentimes LGBTQ+ youth experienced trauma within their families of origin or out in the world, and really benefit from being in a supportive environment where they feel safe, understood and have access to whatever it is they need,” Jeffrey says.
“We get in at the beginning of the problem of homelessness for young adults,” she explains. Project HOME not only provides housing, but support through their programming for young adults. Residents have access to case managers, life skills training, community activities, peer support, behavioral health support and employment and educational opportunities. “We believe that the root causes of homelessness can be addressed when we provide support services.”
Project HOME has received a total of $6 million in funding from donor-advised funds and currently takes in about 300 donations from DAFs each year.
To provide this essential support, Project HOME relies on donor generosity. Grants and donations account for about 30% of the organization’s revenue. Jeffrey says that when it comes to donor-advised funds (DAFs), gifts from supporters can “go where you want them to go.”
Over the past ten years, Project HOME has received a total of $6 million in funding from donor-advised funds and currently takes in about 300 donations from DAFs each year. Jeffrey notes that the organization communicates frequently with monthly, long-term donors “to let them know what their giving is allowing us to accomplish.”
Recurring and long-term funding allows Project HOME to serve program participants with outreach, training, health and education support, and more. Jeffrey says these services provide participants a baseline from which they can further develop, grow and thrive: “When you have what you need, you can start to dream about what you hope for.”
Photo: Project HOME/ Jay Gorodetzer Photography
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