Coming Home with Dignity
As a young, dynamic, and talented student organizer in the late 1980s, Gloria Casarez was a vital partner with Project HOME in advocating for justice and dignity for people experiencing homelessness and poverty. The scrappy program she started, Empty the Shelters, had their first office space in our yet-to-be-developed building at 1515 Fairmount Avenue.
Gloria passed away tragically in 2014 at the young age of 42, after a lifetime of fighting for civil rights for and with marginalized people, especially the LGBTQ community. But her spirit was powerfully present in March, 2019, when the first residents moved into our newest housing: the aptly named Gloria Casarez Residence. It is the first LGBTQ-friendly permanent supportive housing in Pennsylvania.
We had long recognized that the latest wave of new homelessness included many young adults, a high proportion of whom were LGBTQ. Working with youth advocacy and LGBTQ organizations, we began to dedicate new permanent supportive apartments for this very population – in JBJ Soul Homes, Francis House of Peace, and Ruth Williams House at the Gene & Marlene Epstein Building. But we needed to do more.
Speaking at the groundbreaking, Project HOME’s Executive Director Sister Mary Scullion said, “Every young adult, regardless of their social status, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation, deserves to be treated with respect. Every young adult deserves a fighting chance – a chance to grow up and face the challenges of the adult world with a stable home – with a place to return to at night and feel safe and protected – a sanctuary as they figure out the adult they want to become. Gloria Casarez believed that. She worked every day to improve the lives of every single member of our city’s LGBTQ community.”