A Way Home — Housing Solutions: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's series on solutions to homelessness and ways to increase affordable housing. It is made possible by a coalition of funders including the City of Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, the ENNA Foundation, Kalamazoo County Land Bank, and LISC.
For queer adults some places are not welcoming, the advocates at OutFront Kalamazoo say.
Some people – including dad, mom, and family members – can be cruel and unaccepting as they interact with a young person who is transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or working to explore their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Grace Gheen is director of communications for OutFront Kalamazoo.
“Some people get kicked out,” says Grace Gheen, director of communications for OutFront Kalamazoo. “Some of them don’t know what to do. Some are just turning 18 and have been kicked out of their homes or are not welcome because of how they identify. And so they have heard about OutFront and they contact us.”
After years of recognizing a need for a safe place, and months of planning, the nonprofit advocacy group has opened Legacy House, a transitional home for displaced members of the LGBTQ+ community who are ages 18-24.
Located in the Vine Neighborhood, the two-story, three-bedroom house will provide up to six months of accommodations for those in need. It has the capacity to house six to eight people, with individuals sharing rooms and living together while they work toward independence.
Emani Love is the operations manager of Legacy House, which already has two residents.
“It is a transitional home geared for 18- to 24-year-old LGBTQ+ young adults,” Gheen says. “It provides wrap-around services. It provides food. It is helping them get work, Here is a look inside Legacy House, a safe, transitional home for displaced members of the LGBTQ+ community who are ages 18-24.
helping them register to vote, helping them get whatever services they need because they’ve been kicked out of their homes or they’ve been unhoused for some reason and they are looking for somewhere to go immediately where they can have shelter and be safe.”
The MLive Media Group reported in February that the house was purchased in 2020, largely with grant funding, from the Kalamazoo County Public Housing Commission for about $25,000. Various community organizations have been involved in helping to support the project and the renovation of the house. They include the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, The Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, LISC (the Local Initiatives Service Corp.), Stryker Corp., CARES Sexual Wellness Services, and Kalamazoo County.
Emani Love is operations manager of Legacy House, a project of OutFront Kalamazoo.
Other community organizations are also supporting the project, including Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes.
OutFront Kalamazoo strives to “advance social justice, build coalitions, change hearts, and open minds so that all people can live authentically and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” according to its website. The organization got its start in 1987 as the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center. It changed its name in 2017 and since then has had its headquarters at 340 S. Rose St.
It works with church organizations and nonprofits such as Integrated Services of Kalamazoo to try to find housing for those in need. “But the problem is there’s limited housing,” Gheen says. “We do not have enough housing for anybody who is unhoused in Kalamazoo.”
As working people struggle to find affordable housing and as advocates try to find placements for the many unhoused people who were dislodged last year from outdoor encampments in and near downtown Kalamazoo, Gheen says, “There’s nowhere for people to go. There’s not enough space. There’s not enough low-income housing in this city.”
Legacy House is a step toward helping members of the LGBTQ+ community in need.
Here is a look inside Legacy House, a safe, transitional home for displaced members of the LGBTQ+ community who are ages 18-24.
Displaced young people in the LGBTQ+ community who may need transitional shelter can find more information about Legacy House and may apply for placement here
OutFront is also working to expand its Host Homes program for individuals as young as 13 who are faced with homelessness as a result of volatile or untenable situations with their families. The program finds volunteer homes with adults who are willing to provide support and safe housing. It also provides case management services. Young people in the LGBTQ+ community in need of that help may contact OutFront Executive Director Tracy Hall at this email
or at 269-349-4234.
Read more about the Host Homes program here.
Speaking of the Legacy House, Gheen says, “This is something that we have wanted to do for a long time and we’d like to have more houses like this or a larger building of some sort to be able to do this for people because it is much more difficult to find a safe space as someone who is part of the LGBTQ+ community, and finding a place that is welcoming and helping you to get what you need.”