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District of Columbia

Number of D.C. shelters serving LGBTQ homeless is growing

Existing groups step in to fill gaps created by Casa Ruby shutdown



Roughly 1,300 youth are experiencing homelessness in D.C., according to recent estimates.

The Wanda Alston Foundation states on its website that it made history in 2008 when it opened D.C.’s first transitional housing program solely dedicated to LGBTQ+ youth ages 18 to 24 experiencing homelessness.

As part of that program, the foundation, named after the late and beloved LGBTQ rights advocate Wanda Alston, has since opened two more LGBTQ youth homeless facilities, including one that opened last year that also made history.

Referred to as Renita’s, it’s a two-bed, two-year transitional housing program believed to be the first known such facility focused specifically on serving homeless transgender men of color.

In January 2017, the D.C. LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL opened the first of five housing sites it currently operates that can serve up to 66 LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness.

Like the Alston Foundation, SMYAL states on its website that it provides a wide range of services for its LGBTQ youth residents in addition to a safe and stable shelter, including food, case management services, mental health counseling, crisis intervention, and employment related skills development.

The two groups also have designated at least one of their housing facilities to offer their residents extended transitional housing for up to six years.

Beginning in 2012, Casa Ruby, under the direction of its founder Ruby Corado, evolved into the city’s largest LGBTQ specific emergency shelter facility, operating what it said was a greater than 50-bed shelter program at seven locations. The program provided services in both English and Spanish to youth and some adults. It had a special outreach to transgender women of color in need of housing.

But due to a financial crisis brought about by the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in D.C. government grants and which remains under investigation by the Office of the D.C. Attorney General, Casa Ruby curtailed and eventually shut down all of its operations during a year-long period that culminated this past July. In court documents filed as part of a civil complaint filed against Casa Ruby, the AG’s office said, among other things, the loss of city funding was brought about by Casa Ruby’s failure to provide required finance reports verifying how the money was spent. Corado disputes that allegation.

At the request of the AG’s office, a D.C. Superior Court judge has placed Casa Ruby in receivership and appointed the Wanda Alston Foundation as the receiver.

In a report released last month, the Alston Foundation recommended that Casa Ruby be dissolved, saying its debts far exceed any remaining assets. The judge has yet to hand down a ruling on whether to dissolve the once highly regarded LGBTQ organization or take steps to determine if it can be revived.

Since its shutdown, other local organizations, including SMYAL, have taken steps to provide support for the Casa Ruby clients impacted by the shutdown.

“Following the closure of Casa Ruby, SMYAL has been working with our partners at other housing providers, the D.C. Department of Human Services, and the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to identify and fill gaps in services,” SMYAL spokesperson Hancie Stokes told the Washington Blade.

“Most directly, SMYAL has launched a new Latinx Street Outreach program that is designed to support Spanish-speaking LGBTQ youth who may have been connected to services or in need of new services,” Stokes said in an email. “We started piloting this program just last month and have already begun working with 22 Spanish-speaking youth to connect or reconnect them with services, including housing, and assist them with obtaining vital documents, and navigating legal procedures,” she said.

In September 2021, the D.C. Department of Human Services informed Casa Ruby it would not renew its main grant that funded the Casa Ruby homeless shelter program. At that time, DHS announced it had awarded a grant for a new D.C. LGBTQ youth homeless shelter to Covenant House, a nonprofit group that provides homeless youth services nationwide. The Washington Post reported the grant was for $648,000,

Covenant House announced it opened the new 24-bed LGBTQ youth shelter, called Shine, on Sept. 30, 2021, in the city’s Deanwood neighborhood in Northeast D.C. Although other non-LGBTQ organizations currently provide homeless-related services, including shelter accommodations, for LGBTQ youth, the Covenant House Shine facility is believed to be the city’s first LGBTQ shelter operated by a non-LGBTQ specific organization.

“Most LGBTQ+ young people access services from non-LGBTQ-specific agencies,” Covenant House states on its D.C. website. “At Covenant House, we’re proud of the diversity of the youth in our houses and the staff who welcome and serve them,” the statement says. “All young people facing homelessness are welcome here and are embraced with unconditional love, absolute respect, and relentless support.”

With nearly all LGBTQ specific homeless facilities in D.C. focusing on youth, the city’s first official shelter for LGBTQ adults opened its doors on July 14 of this year following a ribbon-cutting ceremony led by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

The 40-bed shelter, located in the city’s Marshall Heights neighborhood at 400 50th St., S.E, will accommodate unaccompanied adults 25 years of age and older, according to a statement released by the mayor’s office.

“The shelter will provide trauma-informed case management services including mental health, substance abuse treatment, medical, and victims’ services,” the statement says.

“We are proud to cut the ribbon on a shelter that embodies our D.C. values as well as our commitment to making homelessness rare, brief, and nonrecurring,” Bowser said at the ceremony. “With this new facility, we’re breaking down barriers to shelter, building community, connecting residents with the trauma-informed services they need to live healthy, happy lives,” the mayor said.

Under city funding, the new LGBTQ adult shelter is being operated by the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness (TCP), the statement from the mayor’s office says. It says two other local nonprofit groups, Coalition for the Homeless and the KBEC Group, Inc., will assist TCP in operating the shelter.

At least two other non-LGBTQ locally based organizations – the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) and Sasha Bruce Youthwork – also provide services for homeless LGBTQ youth, including housing-related services, the two groups state on their websites.

Stokes, the SMYAL spokesperson, said the non-LGBTQ organizations operating homeless programs for LGBTQ people are meeting a need for increased services. But she said additional training may be needed to ensure that all organizations can fully meet the specific needs of their LGBTQ clients.

“There is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to ensure LGBTQ youth who are matched with non-LGBTQ-specific providers are affirmed, welcomed, and supported fully,” Stokes said. 

“SMYAL and our partners have been working to increase cultural competency among all housing providers, but there is a continued need to invest in training providers to build capacity to directly serve LGBTQ youth, as well as creating solid foundations for additional providers who are accessible to LGBTQ youth,” she said.

The 2022 Point-in-Count findings show a continued trend in decreasing numbers of homeless people in D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser pointed out at the time the results were released in April that the total homeless count of 4,410 was down from 8,350 homeless people counted in 2016.

The mayor noted that the 2022 findings show single adult homelessness decreased 12 percent from the 2021 count and family homelessness was down by 14 percent from 2021.


District of Columbia

Capital Pride reveals 2023 Pride theme

This year will focus on ‘peace, love, revolution’



Capital Pride Board President Ashley Smith speaks at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco in D.C. on March 16, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Over 300 people turned out Thursday night, March 16, for the annual D.C. Capital Pride Reveal celebration, which organizers say served as the official kick-off of the LGBTQ Pride events for 2023 in the nation’s capital.

Among other plans for the 2023 Pride events, including the annual Pride parade and festival, organizers announced this year’s theme for the Pride festivities will be “peace, love, revolution.”

The event took place in one of the large ballrooms at D.C.’s Kimpton Hotel Monaco at 700 F St., N.W.

Officials with Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual Pride events, also announced at the Reveal celebration that the 2023 Pride events will set the stage for 2025, when D.C. will serve as the host city for World Pride 2025.

World Pride is an international LGBTQ event that takes place over a period of several days that usually draws a million or more visitors from countries throughout the world to the host city.

Organizers of the World Pride celebration announced last year that they had accepted D.C.’s bid to host World Pride 2025. The bid was prepared by the Capital Pride Alliance and D.C. government officials, including officials from the office of Mayor Muriel Bowser and the city’s convention and visitor’s bureau.

“We are thrilled to introduce our theme for Capital Pride 2023 as we gear up to welcome the world to D.C. in 2025, which is also the 50th anniversary of Pride in D.C.,” said Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos in a statement released on Friday. “This year’s theme kicks off a three-year campaign leading into the message that we want to share with the world in 2025,” Bos said.

In the statement it released on Friday, Capital Pride explained its rationale for selecting its theme, saying it was based in part on the LGBTQ rights movement’s history.

“Social justice issues, including those involving the LGBTQ+ community, were shaped by moments that turned into movements beginning in the 1950s and in the years that followed,” the statement says. “These movements created a REVOLUTION of change that sparked the beginning of newfound freedoms,” it says.

“The fight for these liberties instilled a sense of Pride in members of the LGBTQ+ community in the decades since,” the statement continues. “PEACE and LOVE motivated many of these pioneers to be brave and inspired others to fight for human rights for years to come,” it says.

The statement points out that “recent challenges” have arisen in state legislatures and in Congress that have once again placed the LGBTQ community “under fire from those who would deny us our basic civil rights.” It says these challenges will require a continuation of the fight for freedom “through direct action in the streets and the halls of government.”

Among those who spoke at the Reveal event, in addition to Bos, were Capital Pride Board President Ashley Smith, and Capital Pride’s public affairs director, Marquia Parnell.

Also speaking was Japer Bowles, director of the D.C. Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, who told the gathering that the city government, especially Bowser, will be working diligently to provide full city support for WorldPride 2025.

D.C. drag performer Shi-Queeta-Lee drew loud applause from the crowd that filled the hotel ballroom for a drag performance after the speakers addressed the crowd.

“We’re going to be focused on peace, love, and revolution over the course of this next year,” Smith told the Washington Blade at the conclusion of the Reveal event. “We’re super excited about it because this is a part of the movement that adds to the historical pieces as we approach 2025 and World Pride in 2025,” he said.

In its statement released on Friday, the Capital Pride Alliance announced the 2023 Capital Pride Parade will take place June 10, and will travel the same route as last year’s D.C. Pride Parade. A Pride block party will also take place this year in a two-block section of 17th Street, N.W., near Dupont Circle in the same location as last year, the Capital Pride announcement says.

And it says the annual Capital Pride Festival and concert will take place on June 11, also at the same location as last year — along a stretch of Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., with the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop.  

“Through the events of Capital Pride and its many partnerships, last year Capital Pride Alliance was able to raise over $200,000 for the Pride 365 Fund,” according to the Capital Pride statement. 

“The success of last year allowed CPA to invest and partner with the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community to establish a new LGBTQ+ community center for Washington, D.C., and continue the support of partner organizations that organize events such as DC Black Pride, Trans Pride, Youth Pride, Silver Pride, Latinx Pride and Asian and Pacific Islander Pride,” the statement says.

Further details of plans for Capital Pride 2023 can be access at

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District of Columbia

Casa Ruby board members deny responsibility for org’s collapse

Civil complaints filed against officials to be discussed at March 17 hearing



Ruby Corado has denied engaging in any improper financial actions. (Washington Blade photo by Ernesto Valle)

At least five of the eight former members of the Casa Ruby board of directors who are named in a civil complaint charging them with failing to adequately oversee the organization’s finances and practices by its former director Ruby Corado have filed court papers disputing the allegations against them.

Details of their response to a third-party civil complaint filed against them by the Wanda Alston Foundation in its role as the court-appointed receiver of the now-defunct Casa Ruby LGBTQ community services center were expected to surface at a March 17 D.C. Superior Court virtual hearing on the Casa Ruby case.

The Alston Foundation’s complaint was filed on Dec. 23, several months after the Office of the D.C. Attorney General filed its own civil complaint against Casa Ruby and Ruby Corado. The Attorney General’s complaint, among other things, alleges that Corado and the organization violated the city’s Nonprofit Corporations Act in connection with its financial dealings. An amended version of the original complaint charges that Corado withdrew more than $400,000 of Casa Ruby’s funds for unauthorized use in El Salvador, where Corado currently lives.

The Alston Foundation complaint, which also names Corado as a defendant, identifies each of the eight former board members as defendants and “respectfully requests restitution, compensatory damages, punitive damages, receivership fees and expenses, court costs, attorneys fees and expenses, and any other relief the court deems necessary and proper.”

According to the complaint, each of the board members failed to exercise their legally required oversight of Casa Ruby’s operations and of practices by Corado that allegedly resulted in the financial collapse of Casa Ruby, forcing it to close its operations.

Miguel Rivera, one of the former board members who is an attorney, states in his response to the complaint that it “fails and/or may be barred, in whole or in part, because a bona fide fiduciary relationship did not exist between Third-Party Plaintiff [Alston Foundation on behalf of Casa Ruby] and Third-Party Defendant Miguel Rivera.”

Rivera’s response adds that the complaint should be dismissed on a wide range of grounds, including his assertion that he as a board member “has not engaged in (a) willful misconduct; (b) crimes; (c) transactions that resulted in improper personal benefits of money, property, or service; and (d) acts or omissions that are not in good faith and are beyond the scope of authority of the corporation.”

The responses filed by the former board members are not included in the current online D.C. Superior Court case docket for the Casa Ruby case. At the request of the Washington Blade, Douglas Buchanan, the court’s public information officer, provided the Blade with the responses by Rivera and former board members Meredith Zoltick and Carlos Gonzales.

Similar to Rivera’s response, the response filed by Zoltick and Gonzales also disputes the validity of the complaint and asks the judge to dismiss the case against them.

Nick Harrison, the attorney representing the Alston Foundation in its role as Casa Ruby Receiver, said he has learned that another two former Casa Ruby board members have filed some form of a response to the complaint against them.

In a separate motion filed in court on Jan. 21, Harrison states on behalf of the Alston Foundation that it has taken the legally required steps needed to properly serve each of the eight former board members with court papers informing them they have been named as defendants in the complaint. He said he expects Superior Court Judge Danya Dayson, who is presiding over the Casa Ruby case, to rule that the legally required efforts to serve each of the defendants have been met.

Court records show that Corado, who has appeared in previous virtual court hearings through a phone hookup, has yet to retain an attorney to represent her.

Corado has denied engaging in any improper financial actions and has insisted the Casa Ruby board approved her actions, including her decision to open a Casa Ruby operation in El Salvador. In a December interview with the Blade’s El Salvador correspondent, Corado said the allegations that D.C. officials have made against her amount to “persecution.”

At a Jan. 6 court hearing held virtually, Corado reiterated her earlier claims that the D.C. government was responsible for Casa Ruby’s closing in July 2022 by withholding hundreds of thousands of dollars that Corado says the city owed Casa Ruby for services it provided under city grants.

City officials have disputed those claims, saying the funds were withheld or discontinued because Casa Ruby did not provide the required documentation or reports showing that it performed the work associated with the city grants.

The March 17 court hearing is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. and will be broadcast through the court’s Webex system.

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District of Columbia

Protesters show up at D.C. Gospel Drag Brunch

Monthly event at Capitol Hill restaurant continued uninterrupted



Shi-Queeta-Lee performs at Perry's on Sunday, March 12, the day after the incident at Crazy Aunt Helen's. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

About four or five men showed up Saturday morning, March 11, outside the Crazy Aunt Helen’s restaurant in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill to protest the restaurant’s monthly Gospel Drag Brunch.

According to drag performer Shi-Queeta-Lee, who performs at the event, and the restaurant’s owner, Shane Mason, the small group of protesters displayed a large sign saying, “Pride Is of The Devil” and recited biblical passages from a bullhorn.

But Lee and Mason said the Gospel Drag Brunch, which sells out each time it is held, took place uninterrupted by the protesters, who were told by a D.C. police officer not to interfere with customers entering or leaving the restaurant.

The mini protest took place two weeks after D.C. police turned out in full force at the same restaurant after news surfaced that the far-right group Proud Boys planned to stage a potentially violent protest against a Drag Story Hour event scheduled to take place at the restaurant on Feb. 25.

As it happened, the Proud Boys did not show up to protest, according to D.C. police. Instead, dozens of supporters of the drag event turned out along with members of Parasol Patrol, a group of Drag Story Hour supporters that have supported similar events in other parts of the country.

The Drag Story Hour events, held in bookstores, libraries, and other places around the country, consist of drag queens reading children’s stories to children accompanied by their parents. Mason said Crazy Aunt Helen’s restaurant hosts the Drag Story Hour twice a month.

The March 11 protest outside Crazy Aunt Helen’s against the Gospel Drag Brunch appeared to attract far less attention than the cancelled protest by the Proud Boys.

In a video recording of Shi-Queeta-Lee speaking to the protesters before she began her Gospel Drag Brunch performance, which was taken by one of the participants in her show, at least one of the protesters appeared to be surprised when Lee challenged their opposition to the drag event on religious grounds.

“I grew up in the church,” Lee told the Washington Blade. “I’m from the South and so I know where these people are coming from,” Lee said, adding that her response to the protesters in her brief exchange with them was, “Who are you to judge me and how I live my life or what I choose to do with my life?”

On the video, one of the protesters can be heard saying he is an “ex-transgender” person who followed God’s will and chose to leave a life of sin.

Mason said he, too, was raised in a religious family and is the son of a Pentecostal preacher.

“So, I understand how these folks think,” he said. He told the Blade he hired Shi-Queeta-Lee to be the host of his restaurant’s Gospel Drag Brunch to provide a unique show with a supportive, nonjudgmental religious theme. He said the show includes a gospel piano player who plays gospel music to which Lee sings and three other drag performers lip sync as they join Lee in putting on the show.

“We had people showing up for brunch who weren’t even planning on coming to brunch because they heard there was a commotion and they wanted to come over and support us,” Mason said in discussing the March 11 protest. 

Meanwhile, with the next twice monthly Drag Story Hour scheduled for Saturday, March 18, Mason said he has not heard any reports of yet another protest and was hopeful the children’s event will take place in a calm and pleasant way similar to past events.

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