Former Immigration Equality client, Trinidadian asylum winner, and Safe Haven Awards 2015 Co-Chair Denise Chambers/Courtesy of Immigration Equality
by Peter ‘Souleo’ Wright | June 04, 2015
The connection between homelessness and immigration issues within the LGBT community becomes evident in the statistics of those served by Immigration Equality (IE). According to legal director, Aaron Morris an estimated 25 percent of the organization’s clients (the majority of which are under the age of 25) experienced some form of housing instability.
“Non-LGBT immigrants have more options for community-based housing than LGBT people do such as churches, family members or extended community members. These places are not always welcoming to LGBT people,” he said. “It can be hard to find appropriate housing or shelters that are safe and inclusive for LGBT and gender nonconforming youth.”
In an effort to empower LGBT immigrants, the organization recently announced its new pro se (in one’s own behalf) initiative during its Safe Haven Awards. With an active caseload of 500 and increasing demands for services on an already overburdened organization, Morris noted that it is imperative to equip LGBT immigrants with the ability to represent themselves. Pro se will include the development of educational materials and regular clinics to guide individuals on how to handle their own cases after having been screened by IE. The program launches on June 8. And while most of the mainstream focus is on the Supreme Court’s forthcoming marriage equality ruling, Morris predicted that other issues such as homelessness and immigration will eventually come to the forefront.
“If you’re an undocumented immigrant marriage isn’t on your radar,” he said. “What you want is a place to be safe. Organizations that also do housing and gender issues know that there are other things we need to focus on. After we hopefully win marriage equality people will look to what’s next. A lot of that has to do with who needs the help the most, how socioeconomic class plays into that, where collectively does our expertise lie and how do we achieve these goals in theory, cohesively.”