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D.C. ends funding for Casa Ruby LGBTQ homeless shelter

Group scrambles to raise private donations to prevent Oct. 1 shutdown

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Ruby Corado, gay news, Washington Blade
Ruby Corado is hoping to raise private donations to keep the shelter open. (Blade file photo)

The D.C. Department of Human Services on Sept. 24 informed the LGBTQ community services center Casa Ruby that it will not renew its annual $850,000 grant that, among other things, funds Casa Ruby’s emergency “low-barrier” shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth and adults.

Casa Ruby founder and CEO Ruby Corado said DHS informed her of its decision to discontinue the grant less than a week before the end of the current fiscal year when the funding is set to expire, which could result in the shutdown of the shelter on Oct. 1. 

Corado has since launched a GoFundMe appeal seeking help from the community so that the 50-bed shelter and 24-hour drop-in space located at the Casa Ruby headquarters at 7530 Georgia Ave., N.W. might continue to serve LGBTQ people in need of emergency housing. 

“After 9 years of serving thousands of homeless LGBTQ youth & adults, we are forced to close the doors to our most important program @Casa Ruby (Our Low Barrier Housing) on October 1st, 2021,” Corado states in her GoFundMe appeal. 

“This is also a terrible loss of 30 jobs that will impact the lives of Trans & Gender Non-Binary & other employees who now may face homelessness themselves – A HORRIBLE TRAGEDY,” the GoFundMe appeal states. 

Corado told the Washington Blade on Monday that she and the Casa Ruby staff were hopeful but uncertain whether emergency contributions from members of the community might be able to prevent a complete shutdown of the shelter. 

“We appreciate the work that Casa Ruby has done to serve homeless youth in the District of Columbia,” said DHS Interim Deputy Administrator Sheila Strain Clark in a Sept. 24 letter informing Corado of the decision to discontinue the funding. 

“Under Article VI. A. of Grant Agreement #DHS-FSA-HYRA-006-18 LGBTQ Homeless Youth Low-Barrier Beds (Grant Agreement), DHS at its discretion, and subject to the availability of funding, may extend the Grant Agreement for additional terms,” Strain Clark says in her letter. “At this time, DHS has decided not to extend the Grant Agreement for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022,” she wrote.

Strain Clark didn’t provide a specific reason for the DHS decision to discontinue the funds in her letter to Corado. In response to a request from the Blade for the reason why the grant was terminated, a DHS spokesperson sent the Blade a statement from DHS Director Laura Zeilinger commenting on the DHS decision, but that also did not provide a specific reason for the funding cutoff. 

“DHS is committed to the safety and well-being of youth, including LGBTQ+ youth, who we know disproportionately experience homelessness,” Zeilinger says in the statement. “We are not decreasing funding for LGBTQ+ youth services which will continue to be offered through the Continuum of Care,” the statement says.

“Covenant House Washington and True Colors will now provide LGBTQ+ specific services for youth in the Deanwood community of Ward 7. These are new services in this community,” the statement continues.

“Grant renewal decisions are based on ensuring accountability and continuity of quality services and the safety of our residents,” the statement says. “We value the community organizations who deliver these services and honor the contribution of Casa Ruby.”

The decision by DHS to discontinue the Casa Ruby homeless shelter grant came just under six months after Casa Ruby filed an administrative complaint against DHS, charging the D.C. government agency with ignoring and failing to stop one of its high-level officials from allegedly engaging in anti-transgender discrimination and retaliation against Casa Ruby.

The six-page complaint, which was prepared by Casa Ruby’s attorneys and signed by Corado, says the DHS official in question, whose name is redacted from the publicly released copy of the complaint, had acted in an abusive and discriminatory way toward Corado and other Casa Ruby employees. It says the targeted employees were overseeing three DHS grants awarded to Casa Ruby that funded shelters providing emergency housing for homeless LGBTQ people.

DHS has declined to comment on the complaint, saying it was investigating its allegation.

Corado told the Blade at the time Casa Ruby announced it had filed the complaint that the DHS official named in the complaint appeared to be retaliating against Casa Ruby, among other reasons, for a decision by Corado to decline a request by DHS that Casa Ruby move its main homeless shelter to a site on Division Avenue in Northeast D.C. Corado said she believed the location would be unsafe for Casa Ruby’s transgender clients. 

Corado points out that the location to which the DHS official wanted the Casa Ruby shelter to move was near the site on Division Avenue where transgender woman Deeniquia “Dee Dee” Dodds, 22, was shot to death during a July 4, 2016, armed robbery in which D.C. police said a group of male suspects were targeting transgender women. 

Corado said that as of Tuesday, members of the community and supporters had contributed about $75,000 through the GoFundMe appeal, raising hope that an immediate shutdown of the shelter could be averted.

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District of Columbia

Reenactment of first gay rights picket at White House set for April 17

Event marks 59th anniversary of historic push for gay rights in nation’s capital

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Lilli Vincenz was among the original 1965 White House picketers. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C.’s Rainbow History Project announced it will hold a reenactment on Wednesday, April 17, of the historic first protest for gay rights in the form of a picket line in front of the White House that took place on that same day in 1965.

In a statement released last week, Rainbow History Project says the reenactment will mark the 59th anniversary of an event that is credited with bringing attention for the first time to the federal government’s longstanding discrimination against a minority group referred to then as homosexuals or gays and lesbians.

The statement notes that the 1965 event was organized by the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., the first politically active LGBT organization in the nation’s capital founded by local gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny.

“The picket took place on the White House sidewalk, Lafayette Park, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., on April 17, 1965,”  the statement says. “For exactly one hour, from 4:20 p.m. to 5:20 p.m., members of the Mattachine Society of Washington walked in a circle, non-stop, in silence, carrying posters of their demands,” the statement continues.

“The White House picket is the origin story for public demonstrations for gay rights in the U.S., and the origin story for Pride Marches and the annual LGBTQ Pride celebrations which occur across the globe,” according to the statement.

It says those picketing in the April 1965 event, which included Kameny and longtime local D.C.-area lesbian activist Lilli Vincenz, both of whom held doctorate degrees, called on the government to adopt the Mattachine Society of Washington’s four major demands: an end to the exclusion of homosexuals from federal government employment; an end to the ban on gays and lesbians from serving in the U.S. military; an end to the “blanket denial” of security clearances for gay people; and an end to the “government refusal to meet with the LGBTQ community.’

Among those who chose not to respond to the request for a meeting was President Lyndon B. Johnson, who occupied the White House at the time of the 1965 picketing.

Vincent Slatt, the Rainbow History Project’s director of archiving and one of the lead organizers of the April 17 reenactment event, said the event is aimed, among other things, at drawing attention to how far the LGBTQ community has come since 1965. He said the event is not in any way a protest of the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who Slatt called staunch supporters of the LGBTQ community.

“We are just reenacting this historical event and pointing out how far we’ve come,” Slatt told the Washington Blade. “If you think about what it means in 1965 when these people were protesting and LBJ would not even respond to them. And now, we are at a place where Vice President Harris speaks on a stage at Capital Pride.”

The Rainbow History Project statement notes that the reenactment event will also be held in honor of Kameny, who died in 2011, and Vincenz, who passed away in 2023, both of whom participated in a similar reenactment event in 2008.

Among those who will be participating in this week’s reenactment on April 17 will be longtime local LGBTQ rights activist Paul Kuntzler, who is the only known surviving person who was among the White House picketers at the April 1965 event. Kuntzler will be carrying a replica of his own picket sign he held at the 1965 event, the statement says.

It says Rainbow History Project volunteers will also carry replicas of the original protest signs and hand out literature explaining the picket to passersby and tourists.

Similar to the 1965 event, the reenactment picketing at the White House will begin on April 17 at about 4:15 p.m., according to Slatt of the Rainbow History Project.

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District of Columbia

Four LGBTQ candidates running for delegate to Democratic National Convention from D.C.

Thirty-two candidates competing for 13 elected delegate positions in April 20 party caucus

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From left, candidates include John Fanning, Jimmie Williams, Monika Nemeth and David Meadows. (Photos courtesy of the D.C. Democratic Party)

Four LGBTQ Democratic Party activists are running for election as delegates from D.C. to the Democratic National Convention at an April 20 local Democratic Party caucus election in which all D.C. voters who are registered as Democrats will be eligible to vote.

The four LGBTQ candidates are among 32 candidates competing for just 13 elected delegate positions. D.C. will have a total of 51 delegates to the Democratic Convention, but the other 38 include elected officials and party leaders who are considered “automatic” or appointed delegates. The convention will be held in Chicago Aug. 19-23,

Under the delegate selection process put in place by the D.C. Democratic Party, six of the thirteen elected delegate positions will be elected by voters in a section of the city designated as District 1, which includes Wards 1,2, 6, and 8. The other seven elected delegates will be chosen by voters in District 2, which includes Wards 3, 4, 5, and 7.

The LGBTQ candidates include longtime gay Democratic activists David Meadows of Ward 6 and John Fanning of Ward 2 who are running in District 1. Transgender rights advocate and Democratic Party activist Monika Nemeth of Ward 3 and gay Democratic activist Jimmie Williams of Ward 7 are running in District  2.

All four of the LGBTQ candidates have been active members of the Capital Stonewall Democrats, one of D.C.’s largest LGBTQ political organizations. Nemeth and Meadows are past presidents of the organization. Williams has served as chair of the Ward 7 Democratic Committee and is a current member of the committee. Fanning has served as an elected member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee from Ward 2 and served as a delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

A total of 12 candidates are running in each of the two districts. Under party rules the highest six vote getters in District 1 and the highest 7 vote getters in District 2 will be declared the winners.

The Saturday, April 20 caucus election for the delegate candidates will take place at the Walter E. Washington D.C. Convention Center. An announcement by party officials says two voting sessions will take place, one from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and the other from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Aside from the elected delegates, two prominent D.C. LGBTQ Democratic leaders will be appointed as delegates to the 2024 Democratic National Convention in their role as members of the Democratic National Committee from D.C.

They are Claire Lucas, a highly acclaimed Democratic Party and LGBTQ rights advocate and party fundraiser; and Earl Fowlkes, one of the lead organizers of D.C.’s annual Black LGBTQ Pride celebration and former president of Capital Stonewall Democrats.

Lucas and Fowlkes and the four LGBTQ candidates running in the April 20 caucus election are committed to backing President Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee for re-election.

Statements from each of the candidates running for delegate in the April 20 caucus election, including the four LGBTQ candidates, can be accessed here: Candidates for Delegate | DC Democratic Party

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District of Columbia

HIPS D.C. launches ‘Harm Reduction’ vending machine program

LGBTQ supportive group says program aimed at ‘saving lives’ in response to overdose crisis

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HIPS official Alexandra Bradley, at right, provides information about the HIPS Harm Reduction Vending Machine at Whitman-Walker's Max Robinson Center as University of Maryland Professor Andrea Lopez, who is conducting a study of the vending machine program, stands beside a red syringe disposal bin that accompanies the vending machines. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

HIPS D.C., the LGBTQ supportive organization that provides support and services for drug users and sex workers, officially launched on April 5 a ‘Harm Reduction Vending Machine Pilot Program’ that it says will help save lives by providing free of charge harm reduction supplies for drug users in locations where there is a “higher than average” rate of overdose cases.

The announcement of the project was held outside the Whitman-Walker Health Max Robinson Center building at 1201 Sycamore Dr., S.E., next to where one of the first three HIPS vending machines is located.

Alexandra Bradley, HIPS’ Outreach and Community Engagement Manager, told a small gathering at the announcement event that among the supplies provided free of charge through the vending machines are naloxone, the life-saving nasal spray medication used to treat an opioid drug overdose; fentanyl test kits, syringes, and syringe wound care kits; drug snort kits, condoms, and other items, including  water bottles and snack food such as crackers and granola bars.

Bradley and other officials with HIPS and Whitman-Walker Health said they believe most people, when informed of the rationale behind the vending machines and other programs supporting drug users, will understand that the programs are not encouraging drug use.

“People will use drugs,” Bradley said. “We want them to use them safely,” she added, with the hope that they will seek support to get off drugs. “We can’t help anybody if they are dead. We want to keep people safe,” Bradley said.

A statement released by HIPS says the vending machine pilot program is being funded by a grant from the D.C. Department of Health. It says anyone can access the machines free of charge by contacting HIPS through a phone number posted on the machines – 202-779-0486 – to obtain a four-digit participant code “that they will then punch in to use the machines.” It says that as of April 5, 150 individuals had already registered and enrolled in the program.

Bradley pointed out that registration is not required to obtain naloxone supplies, which can be obtained through a code number posted on the machines. She said each of the three machines are also accompanied by a metal disposal receptacle for safely placing used syringes.

“These machines have been placed in areas where there are higher concentrations of overdose deaths and/or underserved areas with high levels of need for access to services and supplies,” the HIPS statement says.

In addition to the HIPS vending machine at the site of Whitman-Walker’s Max Robinson Center, the second HIPS vending machine is located at The Michelle Obama Southeast Center of Bread for the City at 1700 Marion Barry Avenue, S.E., and the third one is located at Bread for the City’s Shaw neighborhood facility at 1525 7th Street, N.W.

The announcement of the vending machine harm reduction project comes at a time when many in the D.C. LGBTQ community have mourned the loss of beloved local LGBTQ members from a drug overdose, including accidental drug overdoses caused by contamination of their preferred drug such as cocaine with fentanyl.

Also speaking at the announcement event was Andrea Lopez, an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland’s Department of Anthropology, which she said is partnering with HIPS to conduct a  study of the vending machine pilot program and its impact as a public health project and the public health benefits of vending machines as an “intervention” in support of those in need.

Others who spoke at the event and provided details of the vending machine project were Cyndee Clay, the HIPS Executive Director; Starr O’Leary, the HIPS Community Outreach Coordinator;  and Jona Tanguay, an official with Whitman-Walker Health.

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