Organization Ready to Create a Home for LGBTQ Homeless Youth

Homelessness in Philadelphia is no joke, with a reported number of 650 people living on the streets in the city on any given night, according to the City of Philadelphia.

Project HOME alone reports that outreach organizations in the city engage with over 5,500 individuals living in the streets, in abandoned buildings, public transportation stations, in cars and other areas, and around 12,000 people, including families, access shelter each year.

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The North Philadelphia home where Change Philly Today will be housed.

LGBTQ homelessness is on the rise, with a reported 40 % of homeless youth nationwide served by agencies identifying as such [Williams Institute, 2012] and once homeless, LGBTQ youth are more at risk of experiencing violence, abuse and exploitation, as well as mental health issues.

Change Philly Today is a nonprofit organization in the city that was launched to provide housing and services to homeless LGBTQ youth. Their goal is to “provide a safe haven for LGBT youth, and to provide educational opportunities, help with job searches, nutritional education and community outreach.” The organization also hopes to provide sex education that is pertinent to LGBTQ youth.

Change Philly Today executive director Rusty Doll started the organization in February 2014 after meeting a young homeless man whose story inspired him to create an environment for LGBTQ youth.

“I originally started by buying the house for my own personal use as rental income,” he said.  “During that time I met a young man who was housing instable and learning about his story, which sparked a passion in me to use what I had to help.”

Doll said he plans on housing five youth full-time, but will also offer outside LGBTQ homeless youth with programs and activities both on and off site.

Doll said there are prerequisites for youth to get housing from Change Philly Today, which include a willingness to work towards an education—whether that be a GED, vocational or college degree, ability to obtain and hold employment,and remain drug free.

The housing site will be located in North Philadelphia at 263 W. Wensley St.,  and will be equipped with two separate bedrooms (one with two beds, one with three beds) 2 ½ baths, kitchen, living area, programming space and a dedicated office space for staff.

Services for residents will include life coaching, nurse advisory service, basic living skills, GED study prep and testing, and vocational assistance. Youth that do not live in the residence but wish to gain access to the services provided with be able to have hot meals, access to hygiene products and facilities, laundry services, short respite off the street, nurse advisory service, and GED study prep and testing.

Doll said the reaction has been positive towards the housing unit and said Change Philly Today has already partnered with organizations such as Education Justice Coalition (QSPOT). Doll said he hopes to gain more support from community organizations.

“We have also worked closely with several college and high school LGBT groups,” he said. “We have reached out to the LGBT organizations in the community. Some have been willing to listen, but others have ignored our requests to meet. We understand their reluctance to hear from another group trying to start a shelter after the last few have lost steam.”

Doll said currently all of Change Philly Today’s funding is provided by private donors, but said he is currently working to make sure the organization is capable of receiving government funding.

Doll said the organization’s staff has been involved in community outreach since its inception—from feeding homeless youth on the streets, to attending local youth events to spread the message. In the first year of operating, the organization served 300 meals during its street outreach program but said there isn’t a typical number of youth the organization comes across.

“I don’t think we can define a typical number on any given outing,” he said. “Our largest response was at OutFest, and Philadelphia Pride. We have been inundated with emails, phone calls, and referrals from youth, their friends and social service organizations.”

Change Philly Today has a Go Fund Me account with the goal of raising $50,000. Currently, they’ve raised almost $7,000. Doll said the organization is always looking for monetary donations for house repairs, but said he also hopes to gain a good group of volunteers.

“We are always looking for ways to help the community that we are located in but also the city in general, so anyone interested in helping us, please get in touch.”

Doll said the constant accomplishments of the LGBT community in Philadelphia has really helped him stay focused on filling the void in the city for LGBT homeless youth.

“Most recently the LGBT community tackled a large project creating affordable housing for senior citizens. One area that has failed to gain attention or funding is our homeless youth,” he said. “I believe it’s the word homeless that people see as a turn off, there are a lot of negative connotations associated with the word homeless. People need to focus on the fact that these are youth who mostly have come out as LGBT and have been forced out of their homes.”

For more information on Change Philly Today, visit their website. To donate to their Go Fund Me page, click here.

2 Comments

  1. yevette miller says:

    I would like to volunteer

    Reply

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