Tony’s Place, a Houston drop-in center for at-risk LGBTQ youth and their allies, now has a new home in Montrose.
Founded in 2016 and named after the late community leader Tony Carroll, Tony’s Place operated for its first year out of an old two-story home on Montrose Boulevard. Operations then moved into a Midtown space they shared with the Salvation Army’s Young Adult Resource Center.
“We left there early in the pandemic to focus on street outreach,” says Lindsay Konlande, communications director for Tony’s Place. “We tried to find a new space last year, but the City permitting just didn’t work out for our needs.”
The commercial property they were considering had around 5,000 square feet of space—enough for a kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room, office space, multipurpose rooms for groups, and desperately needed storage space for clothes, toiletries, and other street-outreach supplies. But the task of bringing the building up to code was just too much.
After two years without its own building, Tony’s Place finally found a suitable new home and moved in during July. The stand-alone Montrose building is part of the Bering Church’s Open Gate campus on Hawthorne Street. Open Gate focuses on 18- to 30-year-old homeless young adults of any sexual orientation or gender identity, but with a fundamental commitment to provide a safe and welcoming place for the LGBTQ young adults who generally have a very difficult time at shelters and agencies.
“This is a much better facility for us,” says Konlande. “We have our own entrance; it has a kitchen space and rooms for the donations where our members can ‘shop’ for clothing and toiletries. It also has washers and dryers and showers—whatever our members need. It’s been two years in the making, but it’s perfect. It’s a testament to our staff and volunteers, who have been doing street outreach for LGBTQ+ youth [through] pop ups at our partners’ spaces, answering phones and securing housing.”
Move-in costs have been minimal, since the space mainly needed painting and carpet cleaning. But that’s just Phase 1.
“Phase 2 will be getting new computers and kitchen appliances,” she adds. “We’ve had a lot of support from our regular donors. They never stopped fundraising during the past two years.”
This month, Tony’s Place will open for five hours on Saturdays as they work toward expanding their hours in the future. The mission is to provide unstably housed or homeless LGBTQ youth and allies (up to age 25) with day-to-day survival needs—clothing, food, hygiene needs, and resources. The nonprofit plans to work with 25 to 50 youths at a time.
“We don’t provide overnight housing,” Konlande says, “but we can get them to our partners that do, and then work on long-term housing needs. Three of our four staffers are certified to offer assistance with government-housing options. Often, we are dealing with youth who have aged out of the foster system and have nowhere else to go.”
In the United States, 4.2 million youth experience homelessness each year, with LGBTQ youth 120 percent more likely to experience homelessness than their non-LGBTQ peers, according to the National Network for Youth. Family conflict is the most common cause of all youth homelessness. For LGBTQ youth in particular, the conflict tends to be over their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“This new space really means we have an opportunity to help more youths,” says Konlande. “This space will help affirm them and empower them. We want to bring in partners to offer classes to them. Maybe cooking classes and budgeting—whatever they need to get them on their feet.
“In a perfect world, there would be no need for Tony’s Place,” she concludes. But until then, organizations like Tony’s Place—with the help of generous donations—are here to help.
For more information, visit tonysplace.org.
This article appears in the August 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.