For LGBTQ and BIPOC folks seeking recovery from addiction in the Richmond area, there have traditionally not been many good options. Peter’s Place hopes to change that, centering the experiences of BIPOC and LGBTQ people.
When Shauntelle Hammonds was looking for place in the Richmond area to begin her long-term recovery from substance dependency, she noticed that the places the city had to offer did not have the knowledge or understanding to properly help LGBTQ people.
“I am a black trans woman, and those places weren’t inclusive,” Hammonds said. “They didn’t know how to support me, and a lot of places didn’t feel safe.”
That’s why Shauntelle was inspired to create Peter’s Place, a recovery organization for BIPOC and LGBTQ people seeking a safe place where they could find the resources and support they need to overcome substance addiction.
“My goal was to create a space where people felt safe and could access care that was affordable, accessible, but also knowledgeable of what they need and how to support them.” Hammonds said.
It was only about a month and a half ago that Hammonds and a small group of others began working to get Peter’s Place up and running, and in October, they will be opening their first recovery house.
As Peter’s Place’s Executive Director, Hammonds is responsible for the majority of the work required to build the organization up, as well as the day-to-day upkeep — which includes outreach, fundraising, supervising the house, and connecting clients to the support they need.
Since Peter’s Place is yet to open, and the Richmond area doesn’t currently have anything quite like it, it’s currently a challenge for the city’s LGBTQ population to get help if they’re struggling with substance dependency.
“There are a lot of barriers in place,” said Hammonds. In her experience and the experience of many other trans men and women looking for recovery housing, in order to find a healthy living situation, they sometimes have to hide who they are.
“That was another reason why I thought about opening this house,” said Hammonds. “Because I ran into a lot of trans women, or trans women have reached out to me through networks of people trying to find recovery housing, saying that no one would accept them, because they were trans. They didn’t want to put them with women, and they didn’t want to put them with men.”
The name, Peter’s Place, came from a friend of Hammonds named Peter. Peter was a Latinx queer person whom Hammonds met while they were both in recovery. They were in a treatment program that did not have the knowledge of the queer community to adequately support them — a program where they were told they needed to “calm down” their queerness. The stigma the two endured in this program ultimately caused them to leave. Hammonds was eventually able to recover, but Peter sadly passed away from an overdose.
“Peter’s Place was the name that I chose because that person was a big part of my life, but also just to remember that this person didn’t have the fighting chance that most people have, because of their queerness,” Hammonds said. “And they didn’t have a place that actually knew how to support them and help.”
Hammonds and the others involved with Peter’s Place had trouble finding a house, as many Richmond-area renters did not want to provide one of their properties to be used as a recovery house, but they were eventually able to find a landlord who had been in recovery themselves, and were able to secure a house in the West End in Henrico County.
The house has five bedrooms, two bathrooms, two large living rooms, a kitchen and a large yard. Shooting for opening in mid-October, they plan on having seven people living in the house at a time, and when they have the opportunity, they hope to expand and open more houses.
According to Hammonds, having a recovery house that is geared towards such a specific, marginalized group of people makes it hard to get funding. Rather than organizations such as the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental services, Peter’s Place gets most of their money through crowdfunding and fundraising.
Since Peter’s Place is in the process of becoming a nonprofit, there is a board of directors consisting of four people besides Hammonds who have had a hand in getting Peter’s Place up and running. According to Hammonds, besides just getting people moved into the house and keeping it functioning, their goals for the first few months include determining what resources everyone they’re serving needs, because the “one size fits all” mentality used by many recovery organizations will not work for them.
“All structures in the United States are built for white, cisgender, heterosexual men,” Hammonds said. “So if we continue to use these same structures and push people from marginalized communities into these spaces, we’re not helping them — we’re hurting them.”