LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - More help is on the way for homeless teens in the LGBT community.
Lucie’s Place has enough money to buy a second house, where those at-risk in the LGBT population can have a second chance at the life they deserve.
“What we’ve seen has been verified,” said Penelope Poppers, Executive Director of Lucie’s Place, “that there is truly this need for housing in this community for, specifically, this population.”
There are lots of houses for sale in Little Rock. One of them will soon become a lifeline for eight LGBT people who otherwise would have no place to call home. Some of Lucie’s Place’s clients were kicked out of their homes by their parents after they came out; some aged out of the foster care system and had terrible experiences with foster families.
The goal, Poppers said, is to “give them a space to live as themselves. And for most people that are in the house, this is the first place they’ve ever been where they can be openly gay or be openly transgender.”
Lucie’s Place has one house right now, with room for four residents and a full-time staff resident. But with an assist from Sister Elizabeth, who heads Jericho Way, a day resource center for homeless people, it got a $50,000 grant from the Daughters of Charity, which gave it enough money to afford the second house.
“They reached out to us,” Poppers explained, “and our work aligns with their mission of helping folks who are living in poverty, which is very much, everybody that we work with is either of low income or no income.”
The first home has no markings on it to identify who lives there, and no special programs are hosted there. Poppers said, if she did not have to tell neighbors at the outset what the house was for, most would not know, but if any had initial reservations, those have dissipated.
“They’ve been great, yeah,” she mentioned. “We’re active in the neighborhood association there, which is really good. I want to make sure that we stay active in the community, wherever we are. You know, we’re not moving in, trying to change anything. We just want to, our goal is to blend in and become one of the neighbors.”
Lucie’s Place offers job counseling through its office downtown, and helps clients finish school or get their GED. It provides access to communication and transportation, as well as emergency help in the way of food, clothing, and supplies.
“A lot of times,” Poppers noted, “people wonder, ‘why don’t people just get a job?’ But, you know, if you can’t get transportation to your job, or if you don’t have a number that your boss can call you at, or you don’t have clothes, then finding employment can be really hard.”
The transitional housing program, which began when the first house opened in October 2016, is a significant step for the four people in it now and the eight who will be soon.
“We still don’t have good numbers of how many LGBT young adults might be experiencing homelessness in Little Rock at any one time,” Poppers added. “No one’s done any studies on that, locally, and we haven’t been around long enough to really get a really good idea of how many folks we’ll work with in a year, but we work with between 45 to 70 folks a year. So, we’re still pretty far away from having that many beds open.”
A realtor is helping Lucie’s Place find its next house. Then the agency will have to get a conditional use permit from the city, which Poppers said can take a couple of months. She expects the home would not open until late summer or early fall.