MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - OUTMemphis' emergency shelter and youth service center got a big boost from the Assissi Foundation of Memphis, Inc.
The foundation is partnering with OUTMemphis by awarding the former Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center with a $125,000 challenge gr ant for the Metamorphosis Project Youth Services Center.
OUTMemphis still needs to raise another $125,000 in matching funds before getting the gr ant. So far, OUTMemphis donors have contributed more than $60,000 towards that goal.
The money will go towards building the Youth Services Center, which OUTMemphis claims will be a one-of-a-kind organization in Memphis.
Throughout the 28-year history of OUTMemphis, the board, staff, and volunteers have responded to the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth - especially those of young people living on the street or in unstable housing conditions.
Facilitators say LGBTQ young people have slept on their couches, deck, and in the facility's backyard. They need food, shelter, a sense of belonging, and sometimes a surrogate family.
Many of them were kicked out of their homes by parents who don't accept them as LGBTQ. OUTMemphis calls it "getting kicked out when you come out."
Approximately eight percent of the general population identifies as LGBTQ; however, more than 40 percent of the young people on the street identify that way.
"Those are our kids living on the street," said OUTMemphis Executive Director Will Batts. "So many of us in our community either knew kids that were kicked out of their homes, or we were those kids."
The organization claims that nationally, family rejection is the number one reason for young people living on the streets.
OUTMemphis already provides counseling, food, connections to social services, assistance finding healthcare, legal and education support, but until recently, the organization wasn't able to provide the greatest need: housing.
After much studying, planning, and research, the organization believes the Metamorphosis Project is the best response or answer.
The Metamorphosis Project Youth Services Center will provide emergency shelter for LGBTQ homeless young people who cannot be housed by any other existing organization.
During the day, the Youth Services Center will function as a d rop-in center for youth, both LGBTQ and straight. It will serve as a central location for a wide range of services.
Young adults, 18-24 years old, will have access to food, clothing, personal care supplies, mentoring, job and educational placement assistance, life skills classes, mental and emotional health services, and other needed support.
Combined with a Rapid Rehousing program, the project will provide all the tools necessary for young LGBTQ people with the tools to move from the street to independence.
When it opens, OUTMemphis says The Metamorphosis Project Youth Services Center will be the only homeless shelter in Memphis designed around the unique needs of young people.
"For years, OUTMemphis has provided many of the services that our young people needed but what we couldn't provide was housing. This is our dream coming true for helping LGBTQ youth on the street," said Stephanie Reyes, OUTMemphis' Youth Services Manager.
The new center is OUTMemphis' first goal toward expanding to meet community needs. Other projects include securing a larger building and expanding programming to meet other needs. Everyone is encouraged to get involved and give.
For more information about how you can contribute to the challenge gr ant, please contact Will Batts, Executive Director by email or calling (901)231-9799.