Providing HOPE for Homeless Trans People
Original Source HERE
Providing H.O.P.E. for Homeless Trans People
December 12, 2011 by Matt Kailey
If you’re looking for a way to make a difference this holiday season, you don’t have to look any further than H.O.P.E. House, a safe house and transitional living home for trans people.
Located in Phoenix, Arizona, and run by Michael Brown, founder of TransMentors International, and his wife, Lillian, H.O.P.E. House serves trans people in a variety of ways while providing them with a safe place to stay as they work toward getting back on their feet. Consider a tax-deductible donation of any amount, or, if you live in the area, spend a few hours as a volunteer. To find out more, read on:
Matt Kailey: Can you please describe the purpose and mission of H.O.P.E. House?
Michael Brown: H.O.P.E. House is a Trans Safe House and Transitional Living Home. H.O.P.E. House provides a safe place for trans men, women and youth (18+) to live, instead of someone’s couch, or worse, the street, because of the discrimination and hate they have experienced in their lives. Many arrive with only a few clothes, and even fewer basic personal supplies, and many arrive so emotionally beaten down and exhausted that they are simply “existing.” They need a helping hand up, and that’s what H.O.P.E. House offers. Residents find clothing, personal basic items, food, a furnished room, and much more when they arrive. During their stay at the House, residents learn (or relearn) responsibilities, structure and organization, job hunting skills, budgeting, social skills, computer skills, and much more, all of which helps them succeed once they are ready to leave the House.
MK: How did it come to be?
MB: H.O.P.E. House “happened” after taking in an 18-year-old trans boy kicked out of his parents’ home. We quickly saw and realized the sheer number of trans men and women who found themselves in crisis, homeless (or soon to be), abusive situations, hurting financially due to job discrimination, loss of employment, evictions, etc., and others who were moving into the state to begin, or continue, their transition. We recognized the need for them to have a safe place to call “home” where they can get back on their feet again and move forward in their life’s journeys, so we opened our private home to them as a way we could help.
MK: How many and what types of people have you served so far?
MB: We count the number of “bed nights,” much like a shelter system keeps track. In other words, the number of nights a bed has been occupied in a specific amount of time. We started with a one-bedroom apartment, and worked our way up to our current home, which is a seven-bedroom, 3.5 bath home purchased in 2010. Since H.O.P.E. House first took in the 18-year-old trans boy in October 2008, the number of bed nights has been about 3,100 now in December of 2011. Some stay a night or two, others a week or a month. Our longest-staying residents were eight to nine months. We’ve had all ages from 18 to 60 (more younger than older), and they’ve come from a variety of backgrounds and situations – some literally from right off the street, others from abusive or hostile circumstance, and still others from their own apartment or roommate situation that just wasn’t working out for them.
MK: Why do we need a place like H.O.P.E. House?
MB: Again, as I said earlier, trans people experience discrimination, hate, and loss of family and friends. They lose jobs and their homes, and they lose any security and safety simply because of who they are, and for the fact that they choose to live authentically in their affirmed gender. According to the latest comprehensive trans survey, one out of five trans people is, or has been, homeless at some point. I personally believe it’s a much higher percentage than this, but then, a survey is only as good as the number of, and honesty of, its participants.
So, in answer to your question, why do we need a place like H.O.P.E. House? Because if there wasn’t a H.O.P.E. House, what would happen to these men and women? Where would they go? How would they survive? Would they be just another “statistic,” or worse, would their names show up on the Transgender Day of Remembrance website in the coming months or years? We need a H.O.P.E. House in every city, every state, and every country. Because someone has to be here for the people who are hurting.
MK: What can the community do to help this program succeed?
MB: There’s several things we could use help with, financial help being first and foremost. Most of everything we do at H.O.P.E. House is out of our personal wallets. From the moment someone arrives, we help with food, clothing, personal supplies, bus passes and phones for job hunting, and more. Many times, we’ve bought a Greyhound ticket to get someone here, as we have residents coming from several different states. We furnish everything, including beds, linens, soaps, paper products, Internet and more. All donations are tax-deductible through TransMentors International, Inc., and ALL donations go directly to providing necessary items for the residents.
We can also use donations of bulk purchase items like paper towels, toilet paper, hand soaps, coffee, etc., as well as blankets, pillows, umbrellas, gift cards, and used cell phones that we can activate on our personal plan for resident use. Also, something as simple as using my phone number when shopping for groceries at Fry’s, for the 10 cent discount on gasoline that would help us for running the errands necessary to run the House, as so much of our own cash goes to the residents’ needs.
Lastly, we need people to volunteer to spend time with our residents, teach a class or a skill. Whether it’s beauty tips for women, or how to fix a car for the guys, or teach a healthy eating class or a meditation group. Come over and watch a movie with them on the big screen, or take them to a local park or museum. Come to the Friday night Tiki Nights or the Sunday Genderific groups, and participate and learn with them while having fun and socializing with everyone who shows up. Our residents need to know someone cares.
MK: What else would you like to say?
MB: Anyone can keep up to date with everything we’re doing on our Facebook group page.
(Photo: Michael and Lillian Brown)