D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray was among those who gathered at Casa Ruby in Northwest Washington on Thursday to celebrate the first anniversary of the Latino LGBT community center.
Casa Ruby, which opened in a three-story brownstone at 2822 Georgia Ave., N.W., in Colombia Heights last June, offers a variety of social services and other programs to LGBT Latinos in D.C. area in both Spanish and English. These include job placement programs, referrals to immigration lawyers, HIV testing and a food pantry.
Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado told the Washington Blade her organization has provided services to more than 700 people since it opened its doors.
“It’s been an amazing year,” she said, noting the center is a multicultural space that is open to everyone. “It’s been like a dream come true and I feel accomplished because this past year, what I had in mind did happen.”
Casa Ruby has expanded into the third floor of the brownstone to accommodate the clients it now serves.
Corado said the center’s operating budget is currently $5,500 a month, with $4,500 a month in rent and another $1,000 in expenses for utilities and printing supplies. Corado contributes $2,000 – or more than a third of Casa Ruby’s monthly operating budget – each month from her personal savings.
She said a handful of major donors have contributed between $500 and $1,000. A benefit that took place at Black Cat Backstage on 14th Street in Northwest D.C. on June 3 raised $427, but the vast majority of contributions to Casa Ruby come from what Corado described as around 200 “community donors” who donate $10 or $20.
Gray announced during a Blade town hall last Friday at the John A. Wilson Building that LGBT organizations that provide community services could become eligible to receive grants for as much as $100,000 under a new city program.
Corado said she hopes to receive city grants and other funding, but she stressed her most pressing concern is paying Casa Ruby’s rent.
She paid the organization’s landlord $4,000 last week, but she still owes him $7,000.
“The only thing I worry about is the rent,” Corado said.
Client: Life “has changed completely”
Camila Munayki Quiroz had just begun her transition when Casa Ruby opened in June 2012. The D.C. resident who is originally from Perú had been an undocumented immigrant for eight years after her student visa expired, but the lawyer with whom Corado connected her won her immigration case.
“Now I have legal documents in this country, which has opened many opportunities for me,” Quiroz said. “My life has changed completely.”
D.C. resident Marquette, who did not give his last name, has attended job training classes and received an HIV test at Casa Ruby since he became a client two months ago. He told the Blade he feels the organization provides him and others “a lot of opportunities.”
“I’m really trying to do something with my life right now,” Marquette said. “This space is helping me.”