Trinity Place Shelter hosting second annual gala

kitchen hangout 2021 – credit Ashe Goveia of GoviStudios
Trinity Place Shelter LGBTQ residents hanging out in the shelter’s kitchen.
Trinity Place Shelter/Ashe Goveia of GoviStudios

Trinity Place Shelter, which serves homeless queer youth living at and accessing services at an Upper West Side LGBTQ youth shelter, is hosting its second annual gala on October 6.

An estimated 200 people will turn out to support the LGBTQ youth shelter at the nearly sold out gala at Hudson Yards.

Miss New York 2022, Taryn Delanie Smith, who is a dedicated advocate, influencer, and volunteer at shelters for seven years, and through the initiative she launched, “SOS Supporting Our Shelters,” will host the gala.

Since being crowned Miss New York in May, Smith said she’s used the platform to raise thousands of dollars for Trinity Place Shelter and lobbied the New York State Legislature for better funding for transitional housing and rental assistance programs, like Trinity Place Shelter, she wrote in an email statement to Gay City News.

The non-sectarian shelter serving queer youth 18-25 years old opened at the Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan in 2006. The shelter, which operates on $567,800, has 10 beds for youth who stay for up to 18 months and programs, such as counseling and wellness programing, work readiness, supporting the youth to succeed, said Wendy Kaplan, the shelter’s director.

Kaplan is a trained social worker and the shelter’s only full-time employee, but the organization also has a housing navigator, a drop-in program coordinator, and four overnight shelter staff.

Trinity Place executive director Wendy Kaplan.
Trinity Place Shelter’s executive director,Wendy Kaplan, at the organization’s inaugural annual gala in 2021.Trinity Place Shelter/Dan Mayers

According to New York State’s Office of Children and Family Services, LGBTQ youth are disproportionately represented in runaway and homeless youth shelters. Citing national numbers, the state notes that LGBTQ youth only represent 4.5% of the general population, but runaway and homeless LGBTQ youth represent 40% of the homeless youth population. For many LGBTQ youth, homelessness often comes with aging out of the foster care system.

Vitally lifesaving

Through a Trinity Place Shelter spokesperson, multiple young individuals spoke on the condition of anonymity about the impact of the shelter on their lives.

“The community I’ve found at [Trinity Place Shelter] has become so vital to my life that I don’t know that I would be where I am now without it,” one queer youth at the shelter said.

Another youth at the shelter praised the staff for making them “feel like someone cares about me,” talking about the staff’s regular check-ins on their progress and wellbeing.

A transgender youth agreed, adding, “[Trinity Place Shelter] gave me a chance to see what love and acceptance would feel like before I had anyone that accepted me for who I was.”

Honors

LGBTQ+ activist Dr. Wilhelmina Perry and openly gay attorney David Flugman, a partner at Selendy Gay Elsberg PLLC, will be honored at the gala for their advocacy for LGBTQ rights. Flugman was honored at Gay City News’ annual Impact Awards Gala last year.

Perry, 87, an African-American lesbian, was instrumental in the founding of Trinity Place Shelter. Flugman worked tirelessly on defending so-called “gay conversion therapy.”

Conversion therapy is the practice of attempting to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity to fit with mainstream heterosexuality and binary genders. The practice has widely been denounced as torture by the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association. Sixteen countries, along with various provinces, states, and cities around the world, have banned conversion therapy for minors and/or adults, according to Stonewall UK.

The shelter was founded by several “dedicated activists,” Kaplan said, who praised Dr. Perry for “being here every day and every night to bring this beloved space to fruition,” said Kaplan. This is why “this place now exists today.”

Kaplan called Flugman’s work against conversion therapy “pretty incredible.”

“I’ve met some of these young people who’ve been impacted by [conversion therapy],” she said about youth who fled their families who sent them to conversion camps. “The kind of trauma they’ve undergone is devastating.”

The two LGBTQ activists said they were honored by the recognition for their work advancing LGBTQ rights.

“Trinity Place Shelter was a part of my early work, but I have always felt it to be my greatest accomplishments,” Dr. Perry wrote in a statement to Gay City News about the honor. “It was a labor of love and dedication to be able to work with others to find shelter for homeless gay youth.”

Perry added, “The need was great then and it continues to be an enormous unmet need,” she added.

Flugman agreed, adding that the shelter provides “vital services and care to at-risk LGBTQ youth.

“As a litigator, it is important to me that I use my advocacy skills to advance causes and support individuals who need strong representation,” he said, talking about his work to defend New Jersey’s ban on so-called conversion therapy from a First Amendment challenge.

“My firm, Selendy Gay Elsberg, is deeply committed to continuing our work defending LGBTQ rights in courts throughout the country,” Flugman added.

The shelter’s work

Kaplan, a veteran LGBTQ and non-profit professional who has been with the shelter for 11 years, said the shelter is unique due to its extended temporary housing beyond the typical 30 to 90 days and because it is staffed by social workers and doesn’t take government funding. The shelter is completely supported by individual donors and corporations, she said. Kaplan said this allows the shelter to house LGBTQ youths who fall into a precarious age at 21 when many youths age out of the foster care system and cannot stay in shelters due to age restrictions, she said.

“That amount of time is significantly meaningful to get a foothold out of homelessness,” she said, referring to the shelter’s year-and-a-half long temporary housing.

“We really strategically designed our program to disrupt that cycle of homelessness,” said Kaplan. From the moment homeless LGBTQ youth encounter the shelter, the staff helps them set up an action plan and navigate services, she said.

The shelter has an 83% success rate in graduating its residents out of homelessness, 90% of whom are young people of color, according to Anna Crowley, the shelter’s public relations consultant.

The shelter hopes to raise $100,000 this year. Last year’s gala raised more than $70,000 to support the shelter.

Attendees will be able to bid on prizes like two nights at celebrity favorite The Mark Hotel on the Upper East Side and a private design consultation by WorkOf Studio, at a silent auction.

The gala is sponsored by lead sponsors The Corcoran Group along with Selendy Gay Elsberg, Wells Fargo Home MortgageBrown Harris Stevens, the National Hockey LeagueKohl’s, and  Vera Wang.

The 2022 Trinity Place Gala is at 6:30 p.m. at Wells Fargo’s Empire Room at Hudson Yards. Tickets are $187 per person.

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