Introducing the House of Tulip
On Monday, June 22, a group of local and national transgender activists and leaders hosted a community announcement/town hall event at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans. This group, known as the Founders Circle of House of Tulip, announced a brand-new initiative aimed at creating housing solutions for TGNC (transgender and gender non-conforming) people in New Orleans.
Members of the Founders Circle (which consists of TGNC activists, policy experts, writers, musicians, chefs, artists, and healthcare professionals) include Mariah Moore and Milan Nicole Sherry (co-presidents), Jai’ Celestial (vice-president), Sultana Isham and Camilla Marchena (co-secretaries), Dylan Waguespack (treasurer), Ben Collongues, Toni Jones, Za’hair Martinez, and Spirit McIntyre.
Several members of this collective had already been working together recently to help at-risk TGNC people in Louisiana during the COVID-19 crisis. While they were able to raise over $20,000 for the TGNC People’s COVID Crisis Fund of Louisiana and distributed those funds to 119 needy individuals, they received many more applications than they could process and had to stop taking new ones within an hour. “That’s how crucial the need is in our community,” said Sherry.
During the process of disbursing the funds they raised, the group gathered data from applicants and found that over half were either facing eviction or already homeless, and the majority of those who were most at risk were people of color. This is consistent with national statistics. According to True Colors United, 40% of homeless youth in the United States are LGBTQ, and a 2018 report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness showed that TGNC homeless people have greater difficulty finding shelter than their cisgender peers.
TGNC people are also at grave risk of being victims of violent hate crimes. HRC reports that “2020 has already seen at least 16 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means.” Trans women of color are at an especially high risk of victimization. As of this writing, at least two American trans women of color – Dominique Rem’mie Fells and Rhia Milton – have been viciously murdered this month alone.
To help address this continuing issue of brutality, the Founders Circle provided TGNC community members with pepper spray and other protective items at Monday’s event.
Having seen the depth of these problems locally and nationally, House of Tulip’s Founders Circle examined the qualifications people must meet in order to stay in shelters in New Orleans. They found that various restrictions at local shelters tend to disqualify TGNC people, and finding permanent housing can be an even greater challenge. As Marchena noted at the event, “housing is the toughest resource to access in this state.” Given these circumstances, the group decided to move forward with an initiative to create new housing solutions “for TGNC people, by TGNC people.”
At Monday’s event, members of the Founders Circle gave an overview of the short- and long-term goals for House of Tulip. They have received $50,000 in seed money, and are working to raise $400,000 in order to purchase and renovate a property in New Orleans that would accommodate up to nine residents. This property, and any future additional properties, will be operated under a Community Land Trust. That is, the Founders Circle will maintain the property and ensure that rent will always be affordable and unaffected by gentrification. Ultimately, they plan to help bring residents along “the path from homelessness to homeownership.”
Founders Circle members vowed to prioritize the most vulnerable members of the TGNC community, including people of color, youth, elders, sex workers, disabled people, immunocompromised people, and undocumented immigrants.
Attendees of the event responded very positively to news of House of Tulip, and several spoke with passion about how much such an initiative would have helped them in their youth. Other attendees pledged to offer services like free counseling, healthcare navigation, security, and financial support. “We are welcoming all community members who want to assist with good intent,” said Moore.
Support House of Tulip
Noting how dire life circumstances can be for vulnerable TGNC people, Sherry went further: “We’re asking y’all for your support, and for some of y’all, we are begging you for your support.”
To help House of Tulip succeed, you can make a donation via their GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/f/housing-for-tgnc-people-experiencing-homelessness. You can also make a donation – and learn more about this groundbreaking new initiative – at their website, houseoftulip.org.