An LGBTQ shelter for young adults between the ages of 21-30, the first of its kind, will be opening in the Bronx in December.
According to a statement released by the New York City Department of Homeless Services, the shelter will provide multiple services geared specifically toward issues facing young LGBTQ adults, including group counseling, HIV and transgender care (through a partnership with Callen Lorde) and on-site psychiatric care.
"LGBTQ young people, particularly LGBTQ communities of color, are more vulnerable to becoming homeless and need our support," Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks said in a press statement. "Today’s announcement further demonstrates our commitment to generating innovative solutions and moving beyond a one-size-fits-all approach to homeless services. We thank Council Member Torres for his leadership and for standing up on behalf of homeless New Yorkers."
Councilman Ritchie Torres, the first openly gay legislator to be elected to public office in the Bronx, played an instrumental part in the creation of the shelter by offering his district as the location.
"It's the first of its kind, and I believe it will set a precedent for the rest of the city to follow," Councilman Torres told NBC OUT.
Mitchell Netburn, the president and CEO of Project Renewal, the organization that will be running the shelter, echoed Councilman Torres' hope that the new shelter will provide a model for future shelters that could be implemented not just in New York City, but also across the country.
"Shelters provide a lot more than just a bed and three meals a day. The goal of any shelter is to get those receiving services into permanent housing, and that's a message that starts day one of someone's stay. It's also a message tailored to each client. For some, the first step to achieving that goal is to find a job, while for others, that means addressing underlying issues such as mental health, bankruptcy or citizenship," Netburn told NBC OUT.
Netburn, who previously worked for the Department of Homeless Services, said the need for LGBTQ homeless shelters has been unmet for "decades" and that this shelter would help specifically address the lack of space for LGBTQ people who have aged out of the youth shelter system and may not have access to LGBTQ-focused shelters.
Councilman Torres cited high rates of homelessness across the LGBTQ community as another reason why a such a shelter is necessary.
"Housing instability has cascading consequences that could not only lead to suicide, but to a whole host of social pathologies. Many in financial crisis could turn to sex work, which leads to a higher exposure to STDs. It is hardly a coincidence that LGBT youth face higher rates of suicide when they're also at higher risk of homelessness. What is distinctive about LGBT youth is that so many of them have been driven out by their family or loved ones as a result of institutionalized homophobia," Councilman Torres said.
"Many members of the LGBT community have often been ostracized from their homes, sometimes while quite young, and have not necessarily had the types of services we will provide at this new shelter available to them," Netburn added. "The great thing is that we can provide this type of care in one location, especially considering how long it could take to access care in NYC. We can also assure that everyone providing these services is sensitive to the LGBT community."
The Bronx shelter is projected to be opened by the end of the month.