In 2006 a professional social worker, a pastor and a teacher had an ambitious idea. During a cold winter in New York City, the crisis of LGBTQ youth homelessness was reaching a new peak. Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan had a large space that was largely underutilized at night. Kevin Lotz, LCSW, Pastor Heidi Neumark & Lydie Raschka, M.Ed., opened the space to 10 homeless LGBTQ youth in December 2005. They acknowledged that the teachings of many mainstream religious institutions had contributed to this epidemic of youth homelessness by teaching parents intolerance and condemnation of their own children, often resulting in these children being kicked out of their homes. This was a chance to make amends, to offer hope. Trinity Place Shelter does not proselytize and is not religious or sectarian.
The success of the three-week pilot in December 2005 inspired Kevin, who spent months studying the feasibility of permanently establishing the shelter. He presented to the diverse congregation of Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan, who unanimously voted to establish the shelter. Trinity Place Shelter officially opened on June 12, 2006, and under Kevin’s oversight, has remained open, without interruption for 365 nights a year, for nearly a decade.
And why focus squarely on LGBTQ youth? Because up to 40% of homeless youth in NYC are LGBTQ. And transgender youth are 250% more likely to become homeless than their cisgender counterparts. A typical shelter is unsafe in general, and is not equipped to meet the needs of LGBQ youth and especially not equipped for the unique needs of transgender youth.
A network including the Interfaith Task Force for Homeless LGBTQ Youth was formed with the goal to open a year-round transitional 10-bed shelter. Trinity Place Shelter opened in June of 2006. By May of 2007, Trinity Place Shelter assumed sole responsibility for operations. It has since been sustained with the help of generous donors, grassroots community connections and partnerships, and public and private grants.