OPINION - Guest column

GREG ADAMS: Continued commitment to Lucie's Place

Many stories have been shared in recent weeks concerning Lucie's Place and its decision to suspend its housing program.

Lucie's Place is a non-profit organization in Little Rock committed to serving LGBTQ young adults ages 18-25 experiencing homelessness, and has provided a transitional housing program for up to eight residents until the closing of the Transitional Living Program house on May 1.

It also has a drop-in center, opened in February at 307 W. Seventh Street in downtown Little Rock, equipped with a kitchen, laundry facilities, meeting space, computers, and showers to serve Lucie's Place members--those who receive its services--and where services continue to be offered on a limited basis due to covid-19.

Many supporters have been understandably concerned with stories about the closing of the house, and the front-page news story on May 18 regarding Lucie's Place left many questions and concerns unaddressed.

It is a horrible thing to stop providing a needed service to vulnerable people and to do so in the middle of a pandemic. The decision to suspend housing services at Lucie's Place has been the cause of great distress for its former residents, its staff, supporters, community stakeholders, and its Board. Understanding how this decision came about and why it was needed will necessitate stepping back and taking a bigger-picture view.

The Transitional Living Program has struggled for stability and sustainability in recent years. In the fall of 2018, it was temporarily closed during a change in executive directors. When reopened, there were concerns that the needs of the residents and the program exceeded the support possible from the available staff and financial resources.

Because of the importance of housing for the residents in need, everyone involved continued to keep the program going as best they could.

Stresses on the program and those involved intensified with covid-19. Residents who previously were out of the house in the daytime seeking jobs and education often needed to stay in throughout the day because of the coronavirus. This meant that staffing in the house was needed 24 hours a day.

Eventually, a series of distressing events in the house and in the community around the house led to a crisis on April 30. On that evening, seven of the eight residents decided to leave the house because of concerns for their safety. On May 1, it was clear with the events of the preceding days that the house could not be operated with present resources in a way to ensure the safety and security of both residents and staff.

With that difficult and sober understanding, the house was closed.

To continue to operate the Transitional Living Program in a compromised fashion would be unsafe and lacking in organizational integrity. As difficult as it was, we realized that the most honest path forward was to suspend the program and enter a time of evaluation and discernment for what future programming would be--safe, sustainable, and effective.

The obvious concern with the closure of the house is the welfare of the residents. The seven who left were young adults who had the right to choose what was best for them. Lucie's Place could no longer provide them housing, but we did want and need to provide assistance.

Lucie's Place staff assisted the one remaining resident in finding alternative housing. The seven who left received help from many individuals and community organizations including the Center for Artistic Revolution (CAR), Intransitive, and Arkansas Transgender Equity Collaborative (arTEC) along with additional assistance from Lucie's Place.

The position for Lucie's Place is to provide assistance to former residents as would be provided to other members in need. With the critical help of Lucie's Place resident assistants, we are actively gathering information on the continuing needs of the former residents to explore what additional options we can offer. Understanding the needs of former residents and how Lucie's Place might be capable of helping is a continually evolving process. The eight former residents have certainly borne the heaviest consequences of the closing of the house.

Since the closing, there have also been consequences for the staff and leadership. The executive director and the program coordinator have resigned, along with a resident assistant and three board members.

Many supporters have questioned their commitment to Lucie's Place. Thankfully, more have expressed continued support. An interim executive director was named to assist in the transition to an eventual new executive director, and two new members joined the board. Resident assistants are working to continue offering aid to members. Extensive efforts have been made to reach out to community stakeholders to hear concerns and begin the process of gathering input for a new chapter.

Lucie's Place is determined to continue its work with its mission to provide LGBTQ young adults experiencing homelessness in central Arkansas with safe living environments, job training and counseling services in order to ensure lifelong stability and success, and work to promote equality and acceptance for LGBTQ young adults.

What the services at Lucie's Place will look like in the future is not clear. What is clear is that there must be and will be collaboration with community voices and organizations. It is also clear that the new drop-in center holds great potential for services and community partnerships.

Lucie's Place will continue because the need for it continues. Learning the lessons from this most difficult time, it can become a stronger, more effective, and more sustainable organization for LGBTQ young adults experiencing homelessness. The progress and redevelopment to come will be in partnership with many wonderful individuals, organizations, and stakeholders who share this vision.

Determination and imagination for a better world for LGBTQ young adults founded Lucie's Place and will be needed for this next chapter, with redesigned services to the community. And that original vision of a better world will continue to inspire the work of Lucie's Place in the months and years ahead.

Greg Adams is board president of Lucie's Place; the views expressed here reflect not only his but those of the organization's entire board.

Editorial on 05/24/2020

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