LGBTQ emergency housing agency making strides in Durham

LGBTQ emergency housing project and community organizing pushes forward in 2018, hoping to make its biggest year yet.

Located in the Triangle area of North Carolina, Triangle Empowerment Center (TEC) is a non-profit readily and excitedly serving the LGBTQ community, providing necessary services to those who are unstable in finances and housing. TEC has been operating for a few years now, but has just in the past three years opened their Ground Up Housing Solutions (G-Up) to offer housing to those without the resources to secure it for themselves. For 2018, Executive Director Miguel Hunter hopes to expand the organizations’ reach and local community awareness about the important issues on which TEC works.

A group of members and community liaisons work together
to discuss the important needs of the community.

As of press time, TEC is one of, if not the only running emergency/transitional housing program that targets chronically homeless LGBTQ adults in the Triangle. “Housing is a big issue for many,” Hunter says. “Especially when it comes to their healthcare. In our area, there simply are not enough resources for housing, so we collaborate and do what we can.” Through partnerships with other community organizations and agencies, TEC is working to develop a network of resources that will allow those without stable housing to acclimate themselves and find, as Hunter describes it, “a safe haven around emergency housing for those who are chronically homeless.”

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In sharing the history of TEC, Hunter shared a story of one particular client who really stood out to him. “About three years ago, we had a transgender woman (age 22) who was put out of their parents’ home. It was difficult to try to find a place for them to go where they could feel safe. We tried the homeless shelter, but they did not feel safe there since they had been there before and were bullied, threatened and harassed by other residents.” This is a reality far too often felt by transgender individuals who are sent out of their families’ homes. Feelings of isolation can continue to plague them, and many resources are unfortunately unsafe or alienating because of other residents and even staff.

Two founding members of the housing program on the front porch of the house. Both Greg (right) and Damon (left) have died. Damon was a hate crime victim in Fayetteville, N.C.

“[This resident] feared for her life and told our agency they would rather freeze to death than go back there. This was during winter, so she was forced to sleep in an abandoned building. She was so cold, one of her toes was frozen and had to be amputated. We knew something had to be done, so we created Ground Up Housing Solutions to help people in emergency situations. With our program, we were able to transition her to her own two-bedroom apartment. She is currently doing great now…We have numerous stories of LGBTQ youth who have been kicked out and disowned by family members and ostracized by their church members all because of how they identify.”

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G-Up is one of many programs nationwide that has answered the call to include LGBTQ residents in a safe, comfortable environment to allow them the time to find resources and be connected to proper, necessary care. G-Up works with other partners throughout the Triangle like Duke University, Ryan White NC TAP6 Program and the Community Empowerment Fund. Together with these resources and many others, they are working to create more permanent housing solutions and develop community outreach in three ways: educational, social and volunteering.

An image of the housing available as an emergency resource for LGBTQ homeless in the Triangle.

The three communities most frequently served by TEC are minority gay/bisexual/down low/same gender-loving men, transgender women of color and those living with HIV. By creating opportunities for their clients to learn more about intersectional identities, bond with others in similar situations, and create connections through the community via volunteering, TEC allows their clients to learn more about themselves and others, broadening their worldview and expanding the all too important work of stabilizing housing for those who are often left without a home.

As they move forward in 2018, TEC plans to expand access to PrEP/PEP (pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis), HIV/STD testing and community resources. They are looking for volunteers, case managers and further linkage to care opportunities. They encourage and ask for anyone who would like to be involved with TEC to reach out to them via their website at triempowerment.org.

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