OUTMemphis’s new executive director Molly Quinn is a native Memphian who was doing nonprofit work in New York when she says she started to think about her path back home. “I started poking around about three years ago. I was really interested in contributing some of the skills that I have in terms of social justice issues that I was interested in, and contributing those things to Memphis and coming back.”
Quinn’s still settling into her office. There are several boxes yet to be organized and a large blueprint on the wall of the new Youth Emergency Services housing center, which the organization broke ground on shortly after she was appointed to the position in March. Once open, the center will have four beds that any LGBTQ youth between the ages of 18 and 24 experiencing homelessness may use for up to 30 days. Though this may sound like a relatively small space, its impact is anything but.
Quinn and Stephanie Reyes, the organization’s director of development, shared with us some of the statistics and threats for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness. The main statistic that motivated OUT to undertake their multi-pronged housing solution, “The Metamorphosis Project,” was that nearly 50% of all youth (18-24) experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ.
“At that particular age, becoming homeless because of family conflict is the primary reason it has come to us as a unique situation,” says Quinn.
OUTMemphis staff members knew that their organization had the most resources and best concentration of educated individuals to take on the unique obstacles facing LGBTQ homeless youth.
The center will be taking in youth on a walk-in basis, and although they are allowed to stay for up to a month before being moved into a rehousing program, Quinn tells us that, “the trickiness of working with people experiencing homelessness is that the first couple of days are the more critical for long term impact.” And this emergency center aims to cater to these critical first days.
Reyes says that they predict most youth will only stay around three days on average, which makes only having four beds total not so limiting. On top of that, she explains that they’re reserving, “about two-thirds of the space of the land that we bought so that we’ll have the capacity to build more.” Reyes went on to say that they are expecting youth to show up as early as opening day once the center is completed.
The plans for this project have been a work-in-progress for at least the last 5 years. OUTMemphis has been providing rapid rehousing for 18 – 24-year-olds experiencing long-term homelessness since mid-2017. This branch of their Metamorphosis Project helps move clients into long-term housing that OUT helps pay rent on for up to a year, thanks to a government grant they received in 2017. To date, they have housed 33 young adults in apartments as a part of the rapid rehousing program. However, as Stephanie explains, this center is going to be dealing with the first critical days in a way that the rapid rehousing project can’t do for everyone.
OUTMemphis intends to provide more than just temporary shelter to guests of their new center. They hope to bring their many groups and workshops to the young people who will be staying there.
“All of our services are connected. All of the people who are in this program are still a part of our organization, so they will have access to everything that we do. We’ll definitely have some of our sexual health services over there, as well.”
Some of these services include social groups such as their Delta Trans-Masculine group and Prysm, as well as services such as their name change clinic and even entertainment like their OUTLoud showcases.
As this is the organization’s 30th year of operation, they’re having a birthday kick-off party TOMORROW, May 16th, from 6 – 8 pm at the Wiseacre Brewing Company tap room. Their event is open to the public and people of all genders and orientations. More information on this event and OUTMemphis can be found on their website and Facebook page.