Leaders of the Episcopalian church in Indiana have announced the opening of the state’s first residential facility for LGBTQ+ youth and young adults who are at risk of homelessness.
According to the Episcopal News Service, the idea for the Trinity Haven shelter first came about in 2017, when Trinity Episcopal Church’s Rev. Julia Whitworth called on a discernment committee in Indianapolis to determine the best use of an empty house owned by the parish.
Rev. Whitworth said the committee soon brought up the possibility of opening a home for the city’s LGBTQ+ youth, who make up around 40 percent of all homeless youth in the city.
When it became clear they could not use the house for that kind of project, Whitworth said the parish instead provided a $500,000 loan to buy another nearby house, and raised $50,000 in donations to open the Trinity Haven shelter.
“These folks barely batted an eye in saying this was the thing to do,” Rev. Whitworth told ENS. “As a priest, the story of Trinity Haven has been the story of helping people embrace a call in their lives that they didn’t see coming.”
Leigh Ann Hirschman, a member of Trinity Episcopal Church, Indianapolis and the founding president of Trinity Haven’s board of directors, said young people began contacting Trinity Haven as soon as they announced the opening date. In fact, the day they opened, two people were already living there.
“We learned that LGBTQ youth homelessness is an invisible crisis in Indianapolis,” Hirschman said. “40 percent of all homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. 68 percent say that family rejection of their gender identity or sexual orientation is a major reason that they are homeless. Moreover, we learned that there are LGBTQ youth who are sleeping on park benches, in doorways, and on city buses trying to stay warm and safe.”
Rev. Jeff Bower, an associate rector for stewardship and community engagement at St. Paul’s in Indianapolis, became involved in the Trinity Haven project early on, and eventually became a member of the shelter’s board of directors. He said unfortunately, safe housing is a huge need in the young LGBTQ+ community.
“As an openly gay married white male, I realize that my life might have been very different had I come out in my adolescent years,” Bower said. “Now I’m 60 years old, but had I come out at the time that I was 15, 16, 17, I’m not quite sure that I wouldn’t need a place like Trinity Haven.”
Rev. Bower said it’s been one of his passions to be a voice and an advocate for youth to have a safe place and environment where they can grow and flourish, and really be able to advocate for themselves.
“That’s what Trinity Haven is about,” he said. “Allowing kids to live into full potential as loved by God, and to shape a different narrative.”