Interim housing for homeless LGBTQ youth coming to Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The state’s first transitional housing for homeless LGBTQ teens and young adults is about to open in Indianapolis, but advocates say more homes are needed for youths who are turned away by their families when they come out.

Trinity Haven, a former Airbnb property in Maple Fall Creek, will open this summer, the Indianapolis Star reported. The home will initially be able to house 10 youths between the ages of 16 and 21, but organizers hope the property will eventually accommodate 15. Youths will be allowed to live there for up to two years.

“I would say we could easily fill 10 Trinity Havens today,” said Chris Paulsen, executive director of the Indiana Youth Group and a Trinity Haven board member. “Actually, we could fill 20 Trinity Havens.”

Leigh Ann Hirschman, board chairwoman, said Trinity Haven aims to prevent chronic homelessness among LGBTQ youths who have been rejected by their families.

Residents must be at least 16 years old so they are old enough to sign a lease when their time in the home comes to an end, Hirschman said.

The home, which will be operated around the clock, will help residents learn how to become self-sufficient, said Jenni White, the home’s founding executive director.

There will be at least two staff members continuously available to manage any crises that arise. School-age students will be able to enroll at the high school of their choice.

Trinity Haven is the brainchild of the Trinity Episcopal Church, which also provides temporary housing for teen mothers and opened an affordable day care center.

Rev. Julia Whitworth, Trinity Episcopal Church’s pastor, said she became aware of the prevalence of homelessness among LGBTQ youth when she was a pastor in New York City, before she moved to Indianapolis in 2016.

“As a progressive faith institution, we have a particular call to be agents of healing and to show a different image of Christianity to LGBTQ people,” Whitworth said. “I would love for this to be a model for other progressive faith communities.”

Hirschman said that those wanting to move in will first be screened but that there is no requirement to follow any religion.

“The church understands that it has an essential obligation to heal some of the damage that religious malpractice has caused some of these youth. That’s one of the reasons that we started this home,” she said.

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