New transitional home for LGBTQ youth in Portland

Transitional home for homeless LGBTQ youth

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A new transitional home in Southeast Portland is in its first week of being open. What's unique about Unity House is that it caters specifically to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) youth.

Life hasn't been easy for King Whitman who found himself living on the streets at just 19 years old.

"February and January I was just really depressed," said Whitman.

After dealing with personal and home struggles, which partly involved being gay, he ended up homeless, living in and out of shelters.

"I feel like I'm not accepted as a person," said Whitman. "I basically gave up on life a long time ago."

Then last week, he had his 20th birthday.

"It was a great birthday present actually," said Whitman.

His present this year was moving into the Unity House, a transitional home geared specifically toward homeless LGBTQ youth. Five young people can stay at the home and all the slots are full.

"It's nice to be around people that identify in that spectrum," Whitman said.

"There's been things like this done in San Francisco and New York but in Oregon this is a first," said Elaina Medina with New Avenues for Youth, an organization dedicated to helping alleviate youth homelessness.

Medina said a transitional home catering to LGBTQ youth is needed in Portland.

"40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. In so many other spaces, their identities are pushed aside or they have to hide who they are," Medina said.

To stay at the Unity House, young people have to work or be going to school. They have to pay one third of their income, whether that's through grants, scholarships or a job, and they can stay until they're 24 years old.

Dan Valliere with Reach, the organization that is leasing the home to New Avenues for Youth, said they're just glad to help.

"The location's great, it opens the doors to so many opportunities. Jobs, schools. Who knows what the world holds for them," said Valliere.

"That's what I want most in life is happiness and I think I'm on my way too. It's a good feeling to have," said Whitman.

Folks at New Avenues for Youth are feeling pretty good too. Last night they raised $535,000 at a fundraiser to help homeless youth.

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