Then and Now – True Colors Project

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This is an exciting time for West End! If you’ve been keeping up with our updates you know that we are well into construction on our newest supportive housing venture, True Colors Bronx (TCB). Modeled after our successful True Colors Residence (TCR) which opened in Central Harlem in 2011, TCB will provide a safe and supportive, affordable home for 30 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young adults with a history of homelessness. Already, we are searching for a site for our third True Colors Project. It is our ultimate goal to bring a True Colors residence to every borough of New York City.

LGBT youth are an incredibly underserved population and are estimated to make up nearly 40% of all homeless and runaway youth.¹ Our residents recount a fear that we hear far too often, “When my family rejected me, I remember asking myself, ‘Where am I going to sleep? What am I going to eat?’” Homeless LGBT youth experience a high level of harassment and violence on the street, in the shelter system, and elsewhere. They are further broadly affected by critically disabling problems such as substance abuse issues, mental illness, and risky sexual behavior. Prone to depression and generalized anxiety disorders, it is a population with a much higher-than-average suicide rate.²

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Without the support and encouragement of our friend Cyndi Lauper the development of TCR, New York’s first permanent supportive housing residence for LGBT youth, might never have happened. Since then, Cyndi has gone on to form the not-for-profit advocacy organization, the True Colors Fund. While the two organizations are separate, they both have a common cause in helping LGBT youth overcome the many challenges they face. Here is an excerpt from Cyndi’s autobiography that provides a brief history of how our relationship came to be:

“I went down to the Christopher Street Pier in NYC and met so many youth who shared their stories of being thrown out on the street for being gay or transgender. And then I met Colleen Jackson from the West End Residences on the Upper West Side, which Lisa is really involved in. I performed at one of their benefits, and then when Colleen came to the Radio City Music Hall stop of the “True Colors” tour in 2007, I asked if there was something that could be done to help. Colleen came back with the idea of housing for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. She wanted to call it the True Colors Residence and use my name and I said, ‘Go ahead, and whatever we can do, I’ll do.’”

“Inspired by the kids I met on the Christopher Street Pier and by Colleen Jackson and the True Colors Residence, we knew our focus at the True Colors Fund had to turn to doing what we could to bring an end to gay and transgender youth experiencing homelessness.”

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Collaborating with Cyndi is truly an honor and with her support and that of our donors West End is well on our way to realizing our goal of having a True Colors Project in every borough. Join us as we turn this vision into a reality.

¹ Durso & Gates. (2012). Serving Our Youth: Findings from a National Survey of Service Providers Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth who are Homeless or At Risk of Becoming Homeless. Available at http://truecolorsfund.org/news/94-of-homeless-youth-service-providers-report-serving-lgbt-youth
² Based on information from Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth.htm