Bread and Roses

Crisis Transitional Housing for Homeless LGBTQ+ Youth

Bread and Roses, the first crisis transitional housing in Pima County for homeless LBGTQ+ youth has opened its doors. Homeless youth that identify as LGBTQ+ frequently have difficulty finding crisis transitional housing where they feel protected and respected. Bread and Roses offers a safe, inclusive, and affirming space for LBGTQ+ youth, ages 18 to 24.The program aims to provide these youth the support needed at every step, so they can permanently leave the streets, secure stable housing, and build self-sufficient, fulfilling lives.OPCS (Old Pueblo Community Services)and SAAF (Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation) are collaborative partners in this project.

LGBTQ+ youth comprise up to 40% of the homeless youth population in our country, despite only being 5 to 8 percent of the total youth population. They are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than non-LGBTQ+ youth and often are refused entry to emergency housing due to their sexual orientation or gender expression. They are also at a heightened risk of violence and abuse compared to their cisgender and heterosexual peers. Transgender youth are particularly at physical risk due to a lack of acceptance and are often turned away from emergency housing sites; in some parts of the U.S.signs have been posted barring their entrance. Homeless LBGTQ+ youth in our community encounter some of these barriers. Data collected by the Pima County Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) indicates that fewer than 5% of homeless youth making use of homeless services report identifying as LGBTQ+. However, research conducted with local youth service agencies show rates of LGBTQ+ youth homelessness ranging from 21% to 46.5% of the overall homeless youth population in our county. This discrepancy suggests that young people are uncomfortable or feel unsafe disclosing sexual orientation and/or true gender identity during Coordinated Entry assessment and intake processes. Many report that they would rather “go it alone on the streets” than face the potential violence of existing systems.

To address these fears of unsafe housing options, OPCS and SAAF have partnered to establish Bread & Roses, the first transitional housing site of its kind in Pima County. The housing site can house up to 8 youth at a time. The goal is to help 24+ participants move into permanent housing each year. In addition to housing, youth will be supported from entry to exit by a case manager, counselor, housing navigator, health specialist, employment coach, and substance abuse therapist. The program will also offer group activities designed to facilitate connection, provide pro-social opportunities, and build skills, community and culture. This is a low-barrier project based on Housing First principles, and as such, welcomes couples and service animals. Youth can apply to this program through TPCH’s Coordinated Entry Homeless Assistance Access Points. The program takes its name after “Bread and Roses”— a poem by James Oppenheim inspired by a slogan from a 1912 textile worker’s strike. It is now considered an anthem in support of the labor movement and for others seeking justice, dignity, and equality. A verse of the poem, which reads: Hearts starve as well as bodies, give us bread, but give us roses reflects the mission of Bread and Roses in providing more than a transitional housing site for LGBTQ+ youth, but also a place for them to flourish.

For more information on this new program, Bread & Roses, please contact Michael Lopez, Associate Director of LGBTQ Prevention Services, at mlopez@saaf.org or call (520) 547-6109.

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