OMAHA, Neb (KMTV) — Just off of 24th St. in North Omaha, a former house of worship could soon have a second life serving as a home for one of Omaha’s more at risk and underserved populations.
Homelessness is common for LGBT+ youth and young adults because of family conflict or unsafe circumstances: 43% of LGBT+ youth facing homelessness have been kicked out because of their sexuality or gender, and 56% of LGBT+ youth in foster care have spent time without stable housing because they felt safer than in a group or foster home.
With this housing instability, 62% of LGBT+ youth who have experienced homelessness have experienced physical assault, and 38% have experienced sexual assault.
Those who fall in the intersections of sexuality, gender and race can face greater barriers to housing. 20% of youths in juvenile incarceration facilities are LGBT+, 39% of all girls in these facilities are LGBT+ and 85% of all LGBT+ youth in juvenile detention facilities are people of color.
Dominique Morgan, executive director of Black and Pink, says her priority is to reach these often underserved groups.
"By centering those identities, we're not saying the needs of a white LGBTQ+ youth doesn't matter, but if I'm developing solutions based on the needs of the most oppressed, then everyone else is automatically going to benefit," Morgan said.
Here in Omaha, there are shelters these young people can turn to, but Morgan says right now, only one is open and affirming of LGBT+ people.
“If we’re talking about creating spaces where young people can thrive, where they can develop what type of adult they want to be, what type of community member they want to be and they want to do it in the most enriching environment, that doesn’t exist," Morgan said.
She wants to give more than just safety. Like Black and Pink's Lydon House, which serves LGBT+ people coming out of incarceration and those living with HIV and AIDS, Morgan wants to create a home for LGBT+ young people, where they can live fully as themselves and thrive.
“I don’t believe young people should have to sacrifice to be able to have a place to sleep at night," Morgan said. "Opportunity Campus is named because sacrifice is not in our equation.”
Black and Pink is working to create the Opportunity Campus from an old church and its attached duplex located at 25th and Evans. The organization plans on creating 10 apartments for LGBT+ people ages 19-24, and to convert the sanctuary into a resource center which will provide things like showers, meals, mental health resources and more.
Morgan picked the location in the neighborhood that she grew up in, saying she wants to show what North Omaha has to offer and expand on it.
“I’m hoping that the next Dominique that’s walking down the street in the next six months will know that not only are they not alone, but their story is not different," Morgan said. "They are loved and they are seen. And if they can’t find support out there, they are going to find support in here."
The organization has launched a capital campaign to raise $300,000 over the next three weeks to officially purchase the building. Morgan is confident that the community will get them to this goal.
Black and Pink is hoping to start welcoming young people into the home as early as April, while the church is being renovated.