Promise House opens facility and offers programs for homeless LGBT young adults
Mayor Mike Rawlings said he was concerned with LGBT homeless youths. Now he has proven his concern with an enthusiastic interest in earmarking a portion of the money in the next bond election to address the problem of homeless LGBT youths.
As a result of work done by the Mayor’s LGBT Task Force, and a committee that grew out of the work of the task force called OutLast Youth, Rawlings has declared April 26 LGBT Youth Homelessness Awareness Day.
The mayor points out in his proclamation that about 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT. To address this problem, Councilman Adam Medrano called a press conference at Dallas City Hall on April 19, announcing the city’s goal of ending youth homelessness by 2020.
That initiative began about a year-and-a-half ago when Josh Cogan and Pam Gerber met in Medrano’s office to plan how to address the problem. They set up a strategic plan session that brought together 47 faith leaders, elected officials, non-profit organization representatives and representatives of the private sector.
They stressed awareness and teamwork to bring together resources across the city and set goals. Among the accomplishments is the opening of homeless student drop-in centers across the city, providing food, clothing and a place to spend time off the street.
Gerber is optimistic about the ultimate goal of ending youth homelessness. “We’re not only meeting but surpassing our goals,” she said.
She emphasized the importance of the private sector in solving the problem, saying the private sector is an “engaged constituency.” Their support helps make Dallas a safer and more welcoming city and helps provide resources to care for some of our most vulnerable citizens, Gerber said.
Cogan, an ally who is passionate about housing and helping LGBT youth, described himself as a recovering “homophobe in the name of Jesus.” He said he was a “church planter,” working through the Baptist Convention of Texas, and while working as a pastor at a new church in Deep Ellum, he partnered for a program called Bridge Builders with Resource Center’s UBE program.
That night, eight LGBT youths told him their stories — some publicly and some in private — about having been kicked out of their homes by their parents because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“I’m here because I grew up in the church and my mom threw me out,” Cogan said he heard repeatedly that night.
He said he just couldn’t sleep, so he researched the problem and realized it’s a national problem not being addressed locally.
One of the programs of OutLast Youth involves working with churches to come to an understanding that “no matter what your theology on homosexuality is, no child should be homeless,” Cogan said. He’s currently talking to Watermark Church in North Dallas, which made a name for itself last year by taking away voting rights from one of its gay members for refusing to participate in the church’s reparative therapy program.
Among OutLast’s partnership organizations is Promise House, which became a Black Tie Dinner beneficiary last year.
At the press conference at Dallas City Hall, Promise House CEO Ashley Lind announced that at the end of March, her organization opened a new house specifically for LGBT young adults who have aged out of the foster system.
Lind said her organization’s participation in this coalition is “a natural fit for us.” Cogan is even using an office at the new LGBT home. Promise House has offices, classes and residential space for more than 100 youths spread over four buildings in Oak Cliff.
Once in the home, the youths’ medical and dental needs are addressed. Counselors work with them, and once settled, they’ll be given vocational guidance to put them on a path toward self-sufficiency. They may live in the new house up to two years.
Darron Moore, who works with LGBT youth at Promise House, said these new residents need employment, and any help from the community is appreciated.
He said getting them in a secure, stable environment is the first step so they can get their critical needs met before starting work on their long-term goals.
Any homeless LGBT youth can be accepted into the program, although Lind said there are a few reasons they might send a youth elsewhere for additional help before bringing them into the program at Promise House. If a youth is suicidal, they’d be directed for intensive help elsewhere, and when youths are on drugs, they get them help and bring them into their program once clean.
Anyone interested in volunteering with Promise House can find out about volunteer opportunities on the agency’s website at PromiseHouse.org. In addition, Moore has a wish list of items needed for the new LGBT house. The list includes bedding and other household items, bus passes, school supplies and other general items and gift cards for everything from fast food, clothing, movies, hair salons or beauty supplies. To contribute, contact Moore at [email protected]romisehouse.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 21, 2017.