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New Orleans could get first transgender homeless refuge in US

3 years 2 months 1 week ago Monday, July 20 2020 Jul 20, 2020 July 20, 2020 6:02 AM July 20, 2020 in News
Source: Associated Press
Members of House of Tulip (Trans United Leading Intersectional Progress) Photo: Instagram

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans could soon be home to the nation’s first refuge for homeless transgender and gender-nonconforming people.

The House of Tulip has put in a bid on some rundown properties which they hope to renovate for their sanctuary, founders Mariah Moore and Milan Nicole Sherry told The Times-Picayune / The New Orleans Advocate.

As of Friday afternoon, an online fundraiser showed that 4,700 people had given nearly $263,000 of the $400,000 organizers say is needed to buy and begin restoring the property.

Moore, now an organizer for the Transgender Law Center, said a place like House of Tulip could have changed her life when she was young and became a sex worker without a permanent home.

“Imagine if you had your own small safe place, surrounded by people who are there to protect you,” Moore said.

Organizers say it would be more than a shelter. Ideally, said Moore, occupants would eventually be able to rent, and then to buy, the houses. Ultimately, they say, the House of Tulip — for “Trans United Leading Intersectional Progress” — could build new small homes to expand its work.

The project grew out of one to raise money for gender non-conforming hospitality and service workers whose employers had closed or scaled back because of stay-home orders. It raised $20,000. Inspired by the larger group’s success, Moore and Sherry decided they wanted to create something more permanent.

“There is no model for what we’re doing,” said Dylan Waguespack, 28, the project’s treasurer and one of 10 founders. “This is something brand new.”

Like Moore and Sherry, Waguespack — public policy director at Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors United — has been homeless. When he stayed at a shelter in New Orleans, he said, he hadn’t begun living as a man and would have welcomed “anything that said ‘Trans kids are safe here.’”

He said a national survey found that one in three transgender people in Louisiana have been homeless at some time in their lives.

“It’s sometimes important just to be in a room with other people that look like you and feel like you do,” he said.

Sherry, 28, said she envisions the House of Tulip in 10 years as a place that the trans community can “take care of ourselves.”

She is is a co-founder of BreakOUT!, an activist organization for LGBTQ youth in New Orleans. Part of the challenge faced by trans people is the dismissive attitude of society, she said.

With the House of Tulip, “we’re fighting for a space in a world that doesn’t see us as valuable, that doesn’t see our humanity,” she said.

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