If it takes a village to raise a child, it certainly takes a village to house an adult, especially one who has experienced unnecessary hardships for identifying as an LGBTQ individual.
OUTMemphis has been galvanizing its own village over the past year in order to get Metamorphosis Project, the housing initiative for LGBTQ adults ages 18-25, up and running.
OUTMemphis' youth services director Stephanie Reyes confirmed last week that the center is hopeful that the project will officially open its doors in 12 months' time. Since the announcement of the housing initiative last year, Reyes and the OUTMemphis staff have been busy securing donations of raw materials and raw talent for the project.
To date, $60,000 has been raised through a multitude of fund-raisers since the announcement of the initiative one year ago. The remaining amount of funding needed is hard to pinpoint and changes depending on what form — monetary or otherwise — donations come in. For example, local architect Dell Livingston has made one of the most significant donations with pro-bono supervision of the conversion of shipping containers into efficiency apartments.
- Plans for the shelter include shipping containers.
"Honestly, I don't know that we would have even made it this far without Dell's help," said Reyes.
At full capacity, the project will be able to house 20 individuals. OUTMemphis intends to have a staff member on hand at all times and plans to provide additional support to residents through community partnerships that can help the displaced youth with resumes, job interviewing skills, and GED tutoring.
Though the project will be the first of its kind for OUTMemphis, it won't be the first attempt the center has made at addressing the challenges faced by homeless LGBTQ adults, who are often kicked out of their own family homes as a result of their sexual and/or gender identifications.
In the past, the center has run foster-type programs for displaced young adults, but, according to Reyes, the challenges that can come with housing the young adults can become complicated, as many individuals need additional help beyond a stay in a spare room.
"That's a lot for most people to handle," Reyes said.
When the main host family dropped out of the program in late 2014, the center started to brainstorm more sustainable options.
At least 40 percent of homeless young adults identify as LGBTQ, according to the Williams Institute, a Los Angeles think tank focused on sexual orientation and gender identity. Transgender adults are particularly vulnerable in Tennessee, since the state does not allow you to change your biological sex on any identification documents. This means that transgender individuals are usually placed with the opposite sex from which they identify, which can be dangerous and traumatizing.
In order to help assess the existing housing needs, OUTMemphis will conduct their second census of homeless young adults in January of 2017.