Elena, a 22-year-old, prides herself on her independence. But when the pandemic hit, she lost her job and became homeless.
The Houston woman, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, initially sought support from her family. Although they kicked her out when she came out as transgender at age 17, she believes that they have become more accepting over the years. Even so, living under their roof again was not good for her well-being. So she pledged to find her own housing, and with the Montrose Center’s help, she did.
Elena got her own apartment through the Center’s Youth Rapid Rehousing program. Freed from the stress and the burden of having to find and maintain housing, Elena is now thriving. She enrolled in her first online college course and found a new job.
Her experience is just one of Montrose Center’s success stories.
Committed to emboldening LGBTQ citizens, the Center provides its clients with the tools to live their best lives. Its youth program assists homeless LGBTQ kids by offering them safe and stable housing. The organization’s comprehensive approach to LGBTQ youth homelessness includes supplying them with rent, furniture, food, and utilities. Each youth also receives personalized case management that incorporates mental-health and substance-use services, life skills training, as well as employment-search assistance.
To continue the lifesaving Youth Rapid Rehousing program, the Center launched the Housing Our Future peer-to-peer team fund-raising campaign. The Center aims to raise $150,000 by May 19, and every dollar donated will go directly to supporting homeless LGBTQ youth.
The Center is looking for more amazing community members to spread the word about the Housing Our Future campaign, and encourages loved ones to give local homeless LGBTQ youth a second chance.
Contributors will get to experience great perks such as a celebratory virtual watch party on May 19 at 7 p.m. The event will feature testimonials from participants in the Youth Rapid Rehousing program, speeches from Center staff and supporters, performances from Athena Oya Sapphire, Dina Jacobs, Duo Dorado (Amy Armstrong and Fernando Gonzalez), Eric Michael Krop, plus messages of support from some amazing celebrity guests. According to Austin Ruiz, communications and marketing manager for the Center, as many as 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. Queer youth are also more than twice as likely than their heterosexual peers to experience homelessness.
“The Housing Our Future campaign enables us to keep LGBTQ youth off the streets and give them a second chance at an independent and successful adult life,” Ruiz says. “Ultimately, it gives them hope.”
Since the pandemic began, the Center has seen an increase in both the number and the needs of homeless LGBTQ youth. “Our Housing Our Future campaign is more important than ever,” Ruiz states.
Jovon Tyler, the current Houston GLBT Political Caucus president, was lucky enough to be taken in by former Houston mayor Annise Parker and her wife, Kathy Hubbard, when he was a teen. He was embraced and supported by that affirming family during his youth.
However, he will never forget what he experienced while living on the streets. When he was younger, Tyler came across a few agencies that tried and failed to help homeless LGBTQ kids. The organizations’ intentions were good, but their programs were ineffective at best.
“I know how important a program like Rapid Rehousing is for these kids. Not only because of their homelessness, but because of all the dangers that go with it,” Tyler says. “So often, they fall into drugs and prostitution. I made many homeless friends when I was on the streets, and today, every one of them is either fighting drug addiction or dead.”
Although he did not participate in the Center’s initiative, he is impressed by the Youth Rapid Rehousing program’s comprehensive approach, and recognizes how important that program is to homeless LGBTQ youth, especially during a pandemic. “I have seen what great work they do. I proudly lend my name to it in any way I can,” Tyler concludes.
To contribute to and learn more about the program and the Montrose Center, visit montrosecenter.org/housing-our-future.
This article appears in the May 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.