Between 20 and 40 percent of the nation’s annual 1.6 million runaway and homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender according to studies by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Two Philadelphians, Rusty Doll and Lisa Sipes, are trying to lower that number by opening a safe house for LGBT homeless youth, the only such facility in the tri-state area.
Doll says the North Philly shelter, called Change Philly Today, will offer a variety of services, including “crisis beds” for youth that need an emergency place to stay, along with a long-term residency program for those LGBT youth who are permanently displaced from homes. However, his vision doesn’t end there.
“We will be providing two meals a day to any homeless LGBT person that shows up at our doors,” said Doll. “We also intend to offer the ability to take a shower, take a nap, search for jobs, offer life-coach counseling and nurse advisory services.”
This plan, however, requires a considerable amount of funding. Doll and Sipes launched a GoFundMe campaign, which, within its first 24 hours, raised over $3,000. Those funds went immediately into repairs to the physical “shelter” space — a property in North Philadelphia that still needs a substantial amount of work.
“The roof is our big project,” said Sipes. “We had a consultation and were told it would cost $9,000, so we are trying to do it ourselves, but that still takes money. Finishing the house at this point is fruitless if we keep repairing drywall and flooring due to a leaky roof.”
Sipes says the shelter’s target opening date is June 1, a “lofty goal,” to use her words. Before the opening, the property also needs new flooring, countertops, appliances, and furnishings. To help in this process, Doll and Sipes set up a Target “gift registry” where individuals can purchase and donate a series of basic household goods for the shelter.
“We are certainly still taking donations, and always will be,” said Sipes. “We will need continued support to pay the bills, and house, feed, and clothe people.”
If you are interested in helping Change Philly Today, contact (609) 836-0772, or visit their fundraising/volunteer website for more information.