Three Jacksonville nonprofit organizations are partnering to provide critically needed services to homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young adults in Northeast Florida.
To help that long-term goal become a reality, a building has been donated to Jacksonville Area Sexual Minority Youth Network (JASMYN) adjacent to its current two building campus at Peninsular Place and Chelsea Street in Riverside.
The partnership between JASMYN, the Youth Crisis Center and Changing Homelessness Inc. – all in Jacksonville – lle is intended to be the foundation for creating a system of care for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in the region. Officials of the three agencies announced the partnership Sunday afternoon during JASMYN’s third annual Campus Brunch and Celebration.
The three agencies will team up to provide outreach, safety net drop-in services, coordinated intake, wrap-around linkage/case management services, and provide for youth emergency stabilization housing services for those youth ages 18 to 24 years old, said Cindy Watson, JASMYN executive director.
“We have seen the number of homeless LGBTQ youth increase steadily over time. And until now, the support we have been able to provide them has been limited,” said Cindy Watson, JASMYN executive director.
The collaboration between the three organizations has the potential “to leverage and sustain a broad range of solutions that help homeless youth find stable housing and LGBTQ-responsive services,” Watson said.
“This collaboration is a real game-changer,” she said.
JASMYN will conduct outreach, build and manage a resource center on its three-building campus. It will serve as the primary case management team for the LGBTQ youth served. The youth also will also engage in existing clinical, mental health, and youth development programs already in place on the JASMYN campus. In addition, JASMYN will provide training and consultation, especially regarding LGBTQ culturally competent service delivery through partners in the community.
Youth Crisis Center (YCC) will provide emergency housing services at their Parental Home Road campus. That designated shelter space will offer low-barrier, culturally competent access for LGBTQ homeless youth and young adults. Youth Crisis Center staff will welcome the JASMYN team on site. The agencies will coordinate referrals to YCC mental health services, life skills support, and Touchstone Village for transitional housing, when appropriate.
“We will renovate our former residential youth shelter to be a 14-bed residential location the LGBT population to come in and have some stabilization, have some mental health counseling and life skills training without cultural barriers,” said Kim Sirdevan, president and chief executive officer of the Youth Crisis Center.
Changing Homelessness, Inc. (CHI) primarily will be responsible for coordinating services throughout the entire CHI coalition and the local Continuum of Care for the Homeless. That includes services funded though the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Changing Homelessness will provide access to coordinated intake using assessment tools specific to young adults, information management and evaluation support, and leadership in community applications for grant funding to support aspects of the project.
“If we can end youth homelessness today, we will have a Jacksonville that has no homelessness tomorrow,”said Dawn Gilman, chief executive officer of Changing Homelessness Inc., in Jacksonville.
Watson said the goal is end youth homelessness by 2020. Partnering with the other two agencies, and establishing a resource center for LGBTQ youth in the new building is a good step in the right direction, she said.
The building was a gift from Paul Schilling and James “Jay” Dutton. Devoted JASMYN supporters, the Vilano Beach doctors and philanthropists purchased and donated the organization’s second building four years ago.
“In Jacksonville, 60 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. That is higher than the national average, which is already a shocking 40 percent,” said Dutton, who’s is vice-chairman of the JASMYN Properties board. He and Schilling were delighted to obtain the building at 651 Chelsea Street for JASMYN, and see it as an investment in JASMYN’s future, he said.
“The nearly 200 homeless youth that we see each year struggle to succeed,” Dutton said. “The homeless youth served at JASMYN need all of the help and encouragement they can get. This building will make a real difference in their lives.”
The two-story brick and wood building will become a resource center. But first the structure needs substantial renovation. Watson estimated it might cost just shy of a half-million dollars to renovate. They already are off to a good start fundraising, she said.
Watson said the Chartrand Family Fund Foundation has contributed $200,000 toward the project.
“We’re hoping that by the end of this year, we’ll be in this building,” Watson said. The exact cost of the renovations won’t be known until architect work is completed. However, JASMYN has a wish list of needed items such as washing machines, furnishings and household equipment that people can help purchase and donate.
The building shares a backyard courtyard with JASMYN’s two adjacent buildings. Once renovated, the center will contain laundry facilities, mail boxes, private lockers, shower suites, counseling space, and shared office space for case managers. It will also house a warming kitchen and provide meeting, training, and program space for up to 30 people.