Our Interview with Jenni White, Executive Director of Trinity Haven
In honor of Pride Month, we checked in with Jenni White, Executive Director of Trinity Haven. We selected Trinity Haven as one of our two charity partners for Gen Con 2020. Since we won’t be having an in-person convention this year, we’ll be carrying over that commitment to next year for Gen Con 2021. In the meantime, we hope you’ll learn about this incredible organization and consider supporting them financially, both now and at our convention in Indianapolis next year.
Trinity Haven is building a much-needed home for unhoused LGBTQ youth in Indianapolis. They hope to open in 2020. Read below for background on the project, the status of the house, and how you can help!
What is Trinity Haven?
Trinity Haven will be a safe, welcoming, and family-like environment for LGBTQ youth without homes of their own. The goal of Trinity Haven is to intervene before youth experience chronic homelessness, and to help them pursue their education and develop the skills to thrive in the world independently. Trinity Haven will provide long-term housing and is not a shelter or a drop-in center.
Why is Trinity Haven needed?
In September 2018, Indiana Youth Group (IYG) reported that 42 young people arrived at their doors without knowing where they would spend the night.
- 50% of LGBTQ youth who come out to their families receive a negative reaction; 25% are asked to leave their homes (source: True Colors Fund).
- 75-85% of LGBTQ youth without a place to stay have been forced out by their parents or are fleeing rejection or mistreatment at home. (source: True Colors Fund).
On January 24, 2018, the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP), conducted its point-in-time count. On that day alone — a day when temperatures fell below freezing – 342 young people under the age of 24 were homeless in Indianapolis. It’s estimated that 136 of these youth (40 percent) would identify as LGBTQ. This number does not include youth who are couch surfing.
Currently, there is no home in the entire state of Indiana devoted to the needs of LGBTQ youth, although there are successful homes in other states.
When will the home be open?
We expect to open sometime in 2020, but we just don’t know when. The exact date is determined by a few items:
- COVID-19. Some of the people we contract with were slowed by the virus, and that has had a ripple effect for us and our opening date. We are also developing new policies around COVID-19 to create the healthiest, safest environment possible for our residents and staff. The virus has slowed down some of the contracted work that we need to complete before opening.
- Our renovations have taken longer than expected — and if you’ve undergone a home reno, we bet you can feel our pain. The biggest delays were caused by discovering knob and tube wiring throughout the house and finding out in the fall that the Department of Health had some additional requirements for extra ventilation and similar items. Finally, we made the decision to make our first floor ADA compliant, because we want to truly be welcoming to all people. We are happy to report that painting is finished and furniture is being moved in now.
- In order to open, we need to be licensed by four different state agencies. Moreover, the process for all of these agencies has to proceed along different but coordinated timelines. It all takes time — partly because we’re doing things the right way, partly because we’re moving up a learning curve, and partly because there’s a lot of red tape. The positive piece of all this licensure work is that, if all goes according to plan, the state will become our biggest funder. It’s worth the wait to get this level of funding, which will allow us to stay open for a long time.
- A new policy from the Indiana Department of Child Services. One of the agencies that will license us is the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS), which must approve our program. We had to wait on our program application until DCS could tell us about a new policy that affects homes like ours. We just received this information in February and are revising our program application to meet the new policy requirements. The DCS staff has been helpful and supportive.
How can folks help Trinity Haven?
Since we don’t have a lot of storage space, the easiest way to make a difference right now is to either make a monetary donation or, to help us get exactly what we need when we need it, we’d happily accept gift cards from your favorite stores (which are close to our house) like Target, Meijer, Kroger, Aldi, and Goodwill. Gift cards may also be used to help youth buy new and/or gently used clothing that is their size and style, so they can express themselves the way they choose. Several retailers offer the convenience of purchasing gift cards online and can be sent directly to Trinity Haven via email. Every little bit helps and we are eternally grateful for all levels of support!
What’s your favorite game to play with the fam? Would Trinity Haven accept donations of board games for the home?
My wife and my 16-year-old son and I love to play two games regularly: The Game of Life – Twists and Turns, and Tripoley. This version of Life has a little computer that you insert game credit cards into and it calculates your money and life points automatically – it’s a lot of fun!
Trinity Haven has a handful of board games so far, and we’d certainly be open to adding to that collection. We will have space for 10 residents, so we don’t necessarily need a whole bunch – but it would be great to give them some options to explore board games together!
What does Pride Month mean to you?
Pride started as a protest. We must remember that. Pride Month is a time to reflect on the past, learn from it, and effect change where we are now. We have a lot to be proud of, but we also have a long way to go until we all have the same rights as everyone else. Black trans women of color, for example, are among the most vulnerable, and until we can see our sisters walk down the street freely without fear, none of us are truly free.
Pride = Protest.