There is a bunch of Gaymber fun, connection, and networking on tap for March, and I can’t wait to tell you about it. But, before we jump completely down the rabbit hole of the exciting things the next month or so has in store for us all, we need to talk about something serious: Housing instability in the LGBTQIA+ community (if you have questions on the alphabet soup and what all those letters mean, click here).
According to an in-depth study by the Williams Institute of UCLA, LGBTQIA+ people reported experiencing homelessness or housing instability at a rate that is twice that of the general population. Additionally, they found that most of the respondents in their study experienced this for the first time in their life as adults. Unfortunately, adult housing instability in our community receives far less attention than youth homelessness does.
There are many services in Tucson dedicated to addressing this problem – though few of them are meant specifically for the LGBTQIA+ community. This matters because LGBTQIA+ people who have experienced homelessness (according to the Williams Institute study) have worse mental health than straight people, and trans clients are also in worse physical health. This is to say nothing of the fact that abuse, intimate partner violence, harassment, family rejection, and a host of other traumas are all disparately high in our community. For a program to truly make change, viewing “the problem” through an intersectional lens that takes these myriad factors into account is not just advisable, it’s crucial.
One such program doing great work for our youth (18-24) is fairly new. Bread & Roses – a collaboration between SAAF and Old Pueblo Community Services – is Tucson’s first crisis transitional housing site for LGBTQIA+ folks. It provides safe housing first, and then participants receive access to a case manager, medical care, counseling services, etc.
The Outlaw Project is another project in the process of creating more transitional housing specifically for BIPOC (Black/Indigenous People of Color) trans women and sex workers (donate here!). The Outlaw Project is based on a deep analysis of why sex workers of color in particular are oppressed by policing and incarceration in the United States. It works on the following priority areas: emergency housing, economic justice for self-sufficiency, harm reduction and health promotion, community-led solutions to violence, mitigating the impact of oppression because of criminalization, decriminalization of sex work, and the removal of other repressive laws and policies.
Lastly, Habitat for Humanity has been hosting Rainbow Build days since 2005 wherein the volunteers building the home AND the recipients of the home (who have to complete 250 hours of sweat equity alongside demonstrating need and an ability to pay a reduced mortgage) are members of the LGBTQIA+ community!
Which brings me back to the amazing events our Social Committee has in store for us this year. April 2nd is Rainbow Build, and we the Gaymber want to show up in force to do any little bit we can to combat the insidious housing instability crisis. It’s a 50 volunteer team (with jobs for ALL skill levels. Believe me – I’m not the tool person in my household, my wife is. I’m the Chief Enthusiasm & Snacks Officer) so invite your friends! Allies are welcome, there will be pizza, and we’ll all look like goobers wearing hard hats together. Sometimes making a difference happens in grand gestures, and sometimes it happens one nail at a time. Join us.
In Pride & Solidarity,
LGBT Chamber Board President
Creative Director, Southwest Solutions, Inc.
P.S. All of our committees have been working their tails off to make the Chamber amazing–and we have a BUNCH of events lined up for you this month, whether you’re feeling literary, networky, sporty, or handy.