The first five residents of the Casa Ruby house for homeless LGBT youth were scheduled to move into the three-story Victorian townhouse in the city’s Columbia Heights neighborhood this weekend, according to Casa Ruby founder and executive director Ruby Corado.
Seven more residents were expected to move in within the next few weeks, she said.
They will be cared for by a support team consisting of paid staff members and volunteers, including house monitors who will be on site in three shifts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Corado said while taking a Blade reporter and photographer on a tour of the house.
“We will provide food,” she said. “We have volunteers that are actually going to help with nutrition. We have a clinical team which is making sure they don’t only have a place to live but they also are supported emotionally and psychologically,” Corado explained in referring to the LGBT residents.
“We have a team of about 30 people that are supporting the house,” she said.
Corado said among those moving in this weekend are two transgender residents, two gay male teenagers, and a 21-year-old lesbian.
As part of a project that’s been in the works for nearly two years, Corado said a D.C. government grant will pay the rent for the sprawling house with 2,799 square feet of living space plus a mostly finished basement.
City property records show that the house, which was built in 1910, had 8 bedrooms and five bathrooms, with a total of 14 rooms. In preparing the house, Casa Ruby officials have used a few of the bedrooms for other purposes, including meeting space.
The furnishings, including 12 brand new single frame and bunk beds, living room furniture, desks, and office furnishings for the staff, have been paid for by private donations, Corado said. In a storage area on one of the floors there are multiple racks of clothes of all types – all appearing new or in perfect condition.
“We want to make sure they have access to things they need because they’re homeless,” said Corado. “They don’t have any income. Their parents threw them out. Sometimes the system just can’t deal with them and they come here,” she said.
“I want them to have good things. I want to make sure they have everything they need.”
The dark wood trim around the home’s Victorian style windows and doors has been offset by bright decorative wall hangings, including a large clock hanging on the wall in the entrance foyer above where a staff member will be sitting at a desk.
“We have a gay touch to the house,” Corado said. “There’s lots of color. The gay flag, the chandeliers – it’s a beautiful home and it’s very gay. That’s what makes this a very unique space,” she says.
“It’s where gay people and trans people can be themselves, where they can come in and they don’t have to worry about being undermined, hurt, violated, repressed, harassed. It is a place where people can come together and be supported by people who know what it’s like to have that done to them.”
The house is located on the 1100 block of Columbia Rd., N.W., less than four blocks from the Casa Ruby LGBT community center and social services facility at 2822 Georgia Ave., N.W.
According to Corado, the link between Casa Ruby and the new home on Columbia Road will provide something that most homeless shelters or longer-term residential facilities for the homeless do not provide – a series of programs to help the residents get on their feet and become self-sufficient, possibly within a period of six months or less.
“If they’re not in school or they’re not working they have to be in our daytime programs,” Corado said, “which means they have to come to Casa Ruby to participate in the job program or the other activities that are linked to getting them involved in services that will help them sustain independence.”
She added, “I thank the supporters who have given hundreds of hours of volunteering, financial contributions, toiletries, things like this, because I feel like it’s a community taking care of people.”