Pride Of Place

by | Jul 6, 2020 | QUEER RVA

Virginia nonprofits Side By Side and Virginia Home for Boys and Girls team up to tackle LGBTQ youth homelessness with Pride Place.

Virginia nonprofit organizations Side By Side and the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls have teamed up to create new housing spaces for LGBTQ youth facing homelessness. These new spaces are called Pride Place; they are two homes on the VHBG campus that will house up to four LGBTQ youth between the ages of 18 and 25. 

“We were seeing time and time again LGBTQ young folks sort of left out of the system,” said Ted Lewis, the Executive Director of Side By Side.

In a press release, Lewis and Claiborne Mason Warner, the president of VHBG, said that homelessness disproportionately affects LGBTQ youth, as 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ despite only making up 9 percent of the total population.

“In 2019, Side By Side launched the Host Home program, which places a young person who is experiencing homelessness in a person’s home until they reached a place of stability. Think of it as ‘AirBnB without a fee,’” said Lewis, “We realized pretty quickly that we needed more diverse options, and we were fortunate enough to be connected with VHBG, who had homes on their campus that they were looking to better utilize. So we formed the partnership for Pride Place.”

Ted Lewis and Claiborne Mason Warner mount a rainbow flag at Pride Place

Side By Side is a Virginian nonprofit organization that focuses on supporting LGBTQ youth through resources like counseling, support groups, therapy, and parent/guardian relations. The Virginia Home for Boys and Girls is a nonprofit that focuses on tackling traumatic and abusive home situations young people may face.

“The plight of youth who have suffered from trauma and abuse is really the common thread among the children and young adults we serve,” said Mason Warner. Youth homelessness is not the main issue that VHBG tackles, but is part of their mission to help youth. 

“We have a 30 acre campus that provides kids a place to live, learn, and receive the therapeutic support they need,” said Mason Warner. “Children who turn 18 can opt into a program like ours and continue to receive some support. Their part of the bargain is that they either continue their education or get a job, and we provide support services, therapy, or just teaching the everyday basics of living independently — how to get on the bus system and access public transportation, how to make a grocery list, how to make a budget, that type of thing.”

Similarly, Side By Side offers resources for LGBTQ youth facing similar situations.

“We work to create supportive spaces for youth,” said Lewis. “That could be in our support groups, counseling services, the Host Home program, etc.”

Like VHBG, homelessness is not the main issue that Side By Side tackles, but it is still part of their mission with LGBTQ youth, said Lewis. 

“Our support groups have always been a preventative effort. If we can give young people space to come out in an affirming and safe way, and we can also provide support to their parents and caregivers, they’re less likely to be disowned and disconnected to family. We are still seeing folks who are disconnected from their family for any number of reasons, often because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity,” they said. “We kept seeing young adults — over 18 but under 25 — who would come to our center seeking support and looking for a place to stay, and while the Homelessness Services System in Richmond is there, it’s not really affirming for LGBTQ+ people and young people.”

Ted Lewis, Pride Place Director Karen Swansey, and Claiborne Mason Warner practice social distancing at Pride Place

Similar to Side By Side’s Host Home program, Pride Place at VHBG will offer transitional housing for youth facing homelessness. At no cost to the participant, they will be able to receive the support they may need and learn the lessons and skills they will need to start a new chapter of their life and thrive in the adult world.

“I’m a member of the LGBTQ community myself, and I wanted to ensure that the young people in our community were able to not just survive but thrive,” said Lewis.

All Photos courtesy Virginia Home For Boys & Girls and Side By Side

Noah Daboul

Noah Daboul

I’m Noah. I’m from Norfolk, Va. (the best city in the Commonwealth), and I’m a rising junior at VCU studying digital journalism. Through my studies, I have had the privilege of being published in the Washington Post through The Robertson School’s Capital News Service. I also write and edit for VCU’s INK Magazine; I like to think that I’m the most nitpicky editor on staff (but like, in a good way). Outside of journalistic writing, I like to write poetry, essays, and music. I also am a big fixed gear cyclist, film photography fanatic, champion carb-loader, cat lover, musician, and wearer of hats.

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