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Indiana’s first transitional housing for homeless LGBTQ youth to open this summer

A member of the LGBTQ community who has deep experience working with transitional housing and homelessness has been named the founding executive director of Trinity Haven, Indiana’s first home for LGBTQ youth who have nowhere safe to live. Jenni White comes to Trinity Haven after serving at Coburn Place Safe Haven since 2010, most recently as vice president of mission impact.

Slated to open this summer, Trinity Haven is located in a large Arts and Crafts-style home in Mapleton-Fall Creek. It offers a safe, welcoming transitional home for LGBTQ youth ages 16-21. When it opens, Trinity Haven will be able to serve as many as 10 youth at a time, with the potential to eventually house 15 or more.

The need for Trinity Haven is great. Every month, between 40 and 65 young people arrive at Indiana Youth Group (IYG) without a safe place to live. Many of those youth end up sleeping on park benches, in their cars, or under other dangerous conditions.

Nearly 70 percent have experienced family rejection based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, according to a 2012 survey by the Williams Institute at UCLA.

“All homelessness is tragic, but homeless LGBTQ youth are in deep and immediate peril,” said Leigh Ann Hirschman, Trinity Haven board chair. “Many are terrified to ask for help from programs not tailored to their needs.”

Trinity Haven is collaborating with IYG, the city’s experts in the needs of LGBTQ youth, which will provide its effective, strengths-based programming at the house and also at IYG’s new headquarters just a few blocks from Trinity Haven. Through its community partnerships, IYG can refer Trinity Haven residents to LGBTQ-friendly organizations such as Goodwill’s Metropolitan High School and Excel Center, Indiana Legal Services, and Adult & Child Health. Trinity Haven is committed to maximizing resources and reducing redundancies in order to increase youths’ chances for success.

White is eager to work with youth at such a pivotal point in their lives. “Trinity Haven will allow us to intervene early enough to change the trajectory of their lives,” said White. “We will provide a safe and nurturing environment where they can develop skills to thrive in the world, avoid chronic homelessness and overcome barriers to pursuing their education and career goals.”

Volunteers have been working for more than a year to bring the home to reality. Today, $900,000 of the $1.5 million needed to complete Trinity Haven has been raised. Renovations are underway, and the approval process with the Indiana Department of Child Services has begun.

“Hiring our first staff member is a huge milestone, and we’re thrilled to have found someone with Jenni’s professional experience and personal passion,” Hirschman said. “We wouldn’t be at this point without dozens of generous supporters.”

Funds to date have come from Lilly Endowment, Impact 100 of Greater Indianapolis, the Faith & Action Project at Christian Theological Seminary, the Mike L. and Sue L. Smith Family Fund, Trinity Episcopal Church, St. Richard’s Episcopal School, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention, and many generous individual donors.

Trinity Episcopal Church incubated Trinity Haven until it received its own nonprofit designation in 2018. While all youth will be warmly welcomed at Trinity’s worship services if they wish to attend, there are no religious requirements for residents of Trinity Haven.

“Faith-based organizations have a special obligation to mend this particular tear in the social fabric, because the misapplication of religion is a significant reason these youth live in danger,” said the Rev’d Julia E. Whitworth, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church.

White is a native of Logansport, Indiana. In addition to roles at Coburn Place, she has worked in various capacities with the Damien Center and Leadership Evansville. She is active with the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Indianapolis Continuum of Care, and she is an actor at the Phoenix Theatre and several community theaters in Indianapolis. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Indianapolis and a master’s degree from the University of Evansville. She and her wife live on the Near Eastside with their teenage son.

For more information, visit trinityhavenindy.org.

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Media contact:  Jen Thomas, JTPR, 317-441-2487, jen@jtprinc.com

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