Affordable housing project for LGBTQ community breaks ground in Newark

LGBT RAIN Foundation building will house, provide support for 11 homeless individuals who identify as LGBTQ

The LGBT RAIN Foundation broke ground Tuesday in Newark on a first-of-its-kind affordable and inclusive housing project for the LGBTQ community.

The building will be located in the West Ward, near Donald Payne School, at 25-27 Roseville Ave.

RAIN officials say the building will house 11 homeless individuals who identify as LGBTQ and may have a disability. The goal, they said, is to address the needs of underserved, chronically homeless LGBTQ young adults and those with disabilities. The units will provide safe, affordable and supportive housing, allowing residents to become independent and self-sufficient.

The project is being consulted by Monarch Housing, a nonprofit pioneer in housing development for marginalized communities. This is its first project related to LGBTQ young adults.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said the housing will have impact.

“The challenges that our homeless and disabled LGBTQ residents face is immense and require support, assistance, respect and, most of all, compassion,” he said. “We have a moral duty to this community and we are creating a building that will house 11 homeless residents who identify as LGBTQ and may have a disability.

“As we prepare to kick off our annual Pride Week celebrations here in Newark, I commend our partners in developing this program and look forward to continuing to work with them to expand these services.”

Each resident will additionally receive supportive services from the LGBT RAIN Foundation and its partners to address their health, financial and psychosocial needs. These services include case management, social services and programming designed to best support sustainable and healthy futures for LGBTQ young adults.

Upon completion of this project, the apartment building will be addressing a tremendous need within the current continuum of care, which is the need for permanent affordable housing.

LGBT RAIN founder and Executive Director Elaine Helms said the day is a milestone moment.

“This much-needed supportive housing project has been a personal vision of mine for a long time, and it’s incredible to see how it has become a community mission,” she said. “The leaders and warriors of our communities have come together to help make RAIN what it is today.

“Eleven one-bedroom units is a huge step for RAIN, and a huge step toward our goal of making sure chronically homeless LGBTQ young adults know and feel that they belong.”

Newark officials said the project is part of a necessary effort to show LGBTQ individuals that their lives are valued and celebrated. It is a space for people to live without the fear of discrimination that too frequently occurs in housing.

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said he wants to change that.

“Homelessness in the LGBTQ community is often too prevalent, but everyone in our society, regardless of sexual orientation, deserves a safe and affordable place to call home,” he said. “I applaud the LGBT RAIN Foundation for building a safe place for LGBTQ individuals to live and receive quality health and financial services. It’s through federal, state, local and private partnerships that important projects, like this one, which can transform lives, are possible.”

The LGBT Reaching Adolescents in Need Foundation provides emergency shelter, transitional housing and permanent supporting housing services to LGBTQ young adults ages 18-26. The RAIN Foundation recognizes the way LGBTQ young adults experiencing crisis are underserved, and that housing is one way to help these adolescents avoid homelessness and lead healthy lives.

This project is the first of its scale for the RAIN Foundation, which has been operating in the Greater Newark area since 2013. Gov. Phil Murphy saluted its efforts.

“In a stronger and fairer New Jersey, it is irrefutable that identifying LGBTQ residents of New Jersey have rights not only to free self-expression but, also, to a safe space to express those truths,” he said. “Our LGBTQ youth face unprecedented struggles and are often subject to homelessness due to a lack of community or familial support.”