The program of the D.C. Center for the LGBT community is seeking housing hosts for individuals who are seeking asylum from countries that are not safe for LGBT persons to live.
“Our ongoing need for housing assistance for several of the LGBT asylum seekers currently here in the Washington, D.C., area continues to increase on a weekly basis,” said Center Global Vice Chair Eric Scharf in a statement. “Sadly, it has become even more acute given the increasing violence we are seeing around the world towards LGBT individuals.”
“We recognize the difficulty that many people have in providing long-term housing to individuals, but we ask you to make a special effort to reach out to your friends and networks to help us meet these needs,” he added. “This is an experience that does not provide the level of welcome that any of us wish to see happen to our newly arriving asylum seekers.”
Center Global says these individuals are unable to access government services and lack support from family and friends from their home countries. The LGBT asylum seekers are mostly young, male professionals from Africa and Latin America.
An African man in his 20s, who asked the Washington Blade to remain anonymous, has been living in D.C. for “well over a year.” He has been housesitting for a Russian family in D.C. and his temporary stay is coming to an end soon.
“My experience in America has been very liberating, in terms of having to enjoy freedoms that are taken for granted here,” he told the Blade via phone. “I’ve been living my life that it would not have been possible [elsewhere.]”
He said he is “easily employable,” but does not have a work permit. While he’s waiting to receive work authorization he said he’s “currently looking around for gigs that match my skills set.”
Another participant of this program who also asked to remain anonymous is a 33-year old man from Eastern Europe who immigrated to the U.S. in January 2015.
He said he left his country of birth because he did not feel safe there.
“It’s a sad place there,” he said.
He remains in contact with his mother and brother.
He said he Googled information relating to LGBT asylum refugees and the D.C. Center and became familiar with the program after the visited the website and contacted Scharf.
He’s now sharing a townhouse in D.C. with seven other roommates and works at a grocery store.
“I would describe my experience in America as challenging, but rewarding,” he said. “Hopefully on the road to becoming more rewarding and more fulfilling in terms of finding and acquiring the freedom that I came to look for.”
Center Global notes it is aware of several other individuals living in the same precarious conditions, including those living outside the country. The group also indicates it understands the responsibility of housing an asylum seeker, but has four requirements: Commitment of at least three months “with the expectation that it may be as much as one year,” a private room, accessibility to public transportation and internet access.
Eric Stults, a gay activist living in D.C, said he has and is currently housing asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East.
He owns a home with a guest bedroom and bathroom in Logan Circle with easy access to public transportation and local businesses.
“I’m glad to support and provide a place to asylum seekers while they are facing an economic struggle,” he said.
Although there were small incidents in the past, Stults says it has been a positive experience.
“It has made me aware of my own good fortune to provide a safe and secure place,” he said. “I learned a lot about their countries and acceptance of LGBT people around the world.”
Those who are interested in supporting Center Global’s efforts to provide housing to LGBT asylum seekers can log onto their website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.