First LGBTQ-friendly permanent housing for young adults in Pennsylvania
The Gloria Casarez Residence is named after the Latina civil rights leader and LGBTQ activist who was also the first director of the Mayor's Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs.
Since 1989, Project HOME has provided a valuable resource for those experiencing homelessness and poverty throughout the city of Philadelphia.
Over these 30 years, the organization has expanded from providing housing, to providing adult learning and workforce development, healthcare and recovery services, advocacy, and much more.
Earlier this month, Project HOME celebrated the grand opening of the first LGBTQ-friendly permanent housing for young adults in Pennsylvania, called the Gloria Casarez Residence. The housing is named after Gloria Casarez, the Latina LGBTQ advocate who served as the executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative (GALAEI) in Philadelphia from 1999 to 2008. That year, 2008, Casarez was appointed as the first director of the Mayor's Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs.
She unfortunately passed away from cancer in 2014.
"Gloria was a passionate and dynamic advocate for economic justice, a brilliant organizer and coalition-builder; she never hesitated to take to the streets for things she believed in," Carolyn Crouch-Robinson, Project HOME's director of residential services, said in an email.
Gloria believed that every young adult deserves to be treated with respect, regardless of social status, race, gender or sexual orientation and she worked every day to improve the lives of every single member of the LGBTQ community. It's an honor that we have a residence that bears her name," she added.
The 30-unit residence will provide an onsite resident service coordinator, peer case aides, occupational therapy, and employment and education services staff available to them towards efforts to move forward with goals around education, employment, career paths, mentorship, health and wellness, and much more.
"LGBTQ homeless young adults face an enormous amount of discrimination, often daily, in the form of frequent micro-aggression and overt acts of discrimination," said Crouch-Robinson.
This discrimination often leads to those in the LGBTQ community ending up in unsafe or dangerous situations, many are unable to finish school, and others take less-than-ideal work in order to survive, she added.
When Project HOME first began looking at the growing issue, they learned that the numbers of youth and young adults in the U.S. was one of the fasting growing homeless population, and 40 percent of homeless youth nation-wide identify as LGBTQ.
"While the data initially drove the need, the collective voice of young adults that had experienced homelessness and trauma drove the housing and program design," Crouch-Robinson said.
The opening of this new resident housing will benefit not only youth adults of the LGBTQ community who are homeless, but also those who are at-risk and aging out of foster care without a place to go.