By Sheldon Bart
For this year’s LGBTQ June Pride Month, we checked in with that beacon of hope and healing on West 100th Street, Trinity Place, a long-term LAPA client for whom we have raised over $1.7 million and counting.
The LGBTQ youth program is sponsored by our long-standing client, Trinity Community Connection, the 501(c)3 social service arm of Trinity Lutheran Church. For 14 years, Trinity Place has provided a secure, non-sectarian and non-traditional residence for homeless LGBTQ youth and young adults.
In ordinary times, the residence comes into being each evening when the residents arrive at the parish hall and roll out fold-up beds kept in a storage room by day. After an early breakfast, the shelter “disappears” as the residents disperse to school or work.
From All Night to 24/7
When the CV19 lockdown began, Rev. Heidi Neumark and Wendy Kaplan, executive director and program director respectively, decided that no way would they toss out 10 homeless youth in the middle of a pandemic. Instead, for the first time in Trinity’s history the residence went into round-the-clock, 24/7 operations. This entailed numerous adjustments starting with increased staff coverage and a shift to Fresh Direct and Costco for delivery of food, cleaning supplies, disinfectants, and consumables. Similarly, while Trinity Place residents would ordinarily patronize a neighborhood laundromat, the emergency necessitated a shift to pick up and delivery services for laundered bedding, towels, and clothes. As you might expect, with COVID came new, unanticipated expenses: For example, cell phone fees. Since residents couldn’t leave the premises to earn money to pay their phone fees, Trinity Place absorbed the cost.
Coping with Self-Quarantine
What was it like for the residents to find themselves cooped up for endless weeks, youth already traumatized by life on the streets? Turns out the kids are alright. Heidi and Wendy realized early on that isolation increases trauma and responded wisely. Residents were connected remotely to mental health resources. Staff were given additional training in trauma-informed care. Staff and residents cooperatively worked out social distancing policies. For instance, “No more than two people in the kitchen at the same time.” A quiet time was established for study and contemplation. Residents were encouraged to individually take a short walk around the block. Volunteers stepped up and built room dividers to afford residents a measure of privacy. Others contributed puzzles and materials for arts and crafts projects. Residents keep themselves busy with these hobbies. They also make constructive use of the time on their hands by exercising more and cooking scrumptious meals. One resident is attending high school remotely.
We’re proud of having raised more than $75,000 in COVID-19 emergency relief grants for Trinity Place, with another $75,000 in the pipeline. Trinity is a case study in having the fundraising capacity in place to be ready for this crisis, and to seize the opportunity to increase their grant’s capacity. The fact is major foundations are increasing giving and even taking on billions in debt to meet the needs of nonprofits in trouble.
We’re proud of the resilience and can-do spirit Pastor Heidi and ace social worker Wendy have displayed from the onset of the pandemic. Most of all, we’re proud to be associated with a program providing young people, abandoned by those who should have supported them, with authentic opportunities to establish a healthy, upwardly mobile trajectory. As Rev. Neumark says, “Our residents have not only been deprived of having food on their table, they don’t even have a table.”
More than 80% of Trinity Place residents move on to a better set of circumstances. Please go to trinityplaceshelter.org if you’d like to help and be sure to let us know how your community resources are meeting the challenges of the pandemic.
LAPA is committed to the LGBTQ community and proud of our LGBTQ staff members and clients.
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