In September of 2015, we launched Unity House, Oregon’s first-ever housing program specifically for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness. The opening of Unity House, through partnerships with Multnomah County and REACH CDC, has allowed New Avenues to create better outcomes for LGBTQ youth by expanding services offered through our program, SMYRC (Sexual and Gender Minority Youth Resource Center).
With oversight from our SMYRC staff, the house is run democratically, with residents working together to meet the day-to-day responsibilities of the house; each resident also receives case management from SMYRC staff to address their specific individual needs, including counseling and connection to education, job training, employment, mental-health services, and other supports. More than providing a safe, harassment-free space for LGBTQ youth as they move toward self-sufficiency, Unity House also helps address the affordable housing crisis currently affecting Portland.
Christine is just one of the five youth living and thriving in Unity House. Having been in multiple foster-care placements since a young age, Christine began accessing New Avenues’ PDX-Connect program (which serves foster youth, who are at high risk of homelessness) and was referred by her case manager to SMYRC. At first quiet and reserved, Christine became more confident in the supportive and nurturing environment at SMYRC, where they became a regular participant in activities, joined the program’s Steering Committee, and even spoke at a Multnomah County hearing on the need for greater public LGBTQ youth and foster-care supports—a presentation that deeply impressed Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. Christine accessed our job-training program, became a resident of Unity House in October 2015, earned their GED in January 2016, began attending Portland Community College, and became a member of the Multnomah County Youth Commission. They have also picked up new hobbies along the way, including Taekwondo and training with the performing-arts group The Circus Project!
Unity House is currently at capacity (with 5 residents) and has a 15-person waiting list. As a result, we are exploring the possibility of launching Unity House II (with the support of REACH), which will enable us to meet the continued high demand for housing for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness. New Avenues is committed to offering housing that provides a safe, supportive space and helps create the community youth want and need to realize their potential; if you’re interested in supporting our housing programs or want more information please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.