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L.A.’s first transgender women homeless shelter opens

Transgender women homeless shelter

This pink Craftsmen’s home in Pico Union in Los Angeles County’s first transitional shelter for homeless transgender women. Herbert K. Hatanaka, executive director of Special Service for Groups, stands on the sidewalk. Photo: APAIT.

Los Angeles county’s first publicly funded “bridge” shelter for homeless transgender woman is a beautiful pink Craftsman house in Pico Union.

More than a dozen women will move into the pretty pink house in early December. The facility had a grand opening last week.

Transgender woman homeless shelter

APAIT, a behavioral health and HIV-AIDS service provider, will manage the property with the Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System, a South Los Angeles services agency, in an effort to address homelessness in the transgender community.

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APAIT will help residents find permanent housing while Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System will provide substance abuse help and life skills programming.

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“With the understanding that stable and affirmative housing is a key social determinant of health for the transgender community, we are deeply committed to residents of the bridge shelter feeling safe and at home during their time with us,” Jake Weinraub, a clinical program manager with APAIT, told Q Voice News.

“Residents will be able to take part in regular case management, mental health and life skills programming that will hopefully be that warm handoff to essential resources, and ensure future success in permanent housing,” he said.

Casa de Zulma

“Casa de Zulma” has 16 beds and residents will be allowed to stay 90 days with the option to extend another 90 days, Weinraub said.

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“Casa de Zulma” is named for Zulma Velasquez, a former staff member with APAIT, who died in August.

Velasquez also hosted “Cafecito with Zulma,” weekly coffee talks at APAIT’s Koreatown office with queer and transgender people to discuss the issues and challenges they face.

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Safe spaces critical

“We recognized early on that it is critical to provide safe spaces for vulnerable populations like the transgender community,” Veronica Lewis, director of Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System, said in a statement. “We hope this is the first step to expanding purposeful and intentional efforts from the public sector.”

The home previously was used for women’s sobriety programs and was converted to homeless housing with $408,000 in funding from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

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About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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