I co-facilitate a discussion group for queer, lesbian, bisexual, gay, trandsgender, two-spirit, questioning and intersex women and our allies at a shelter in downtown Brooklyn every Wednesday night. The group officially runs for an hour,that’s according to the organization the I and the other facilitators volunteer for, Queers for Economic Justice. Unofficially, we sometimes listen/talk for almost two hours. We meet once a week and sometimes our group is the only time the residents, queer or not–we’re an open group–get to laugh, breath and just relax with a snack and be themselves.
We started over two months ago with just one woman. Last week we had 22 women attend, and that didn’t include those residents who came just to get snacks and then left, but were clearly interested in…something.
I worked in homeless services when I first moved to NYC 20+ years ago. I was an office manager at a program for mentally ill men at a homeless shelter on Ward’s Island. I then worked at the Lexington Avenue Shelter for Women in the culinary arts training program. I noticed even then that there were a disproportionate number of queers in the shelter system. No one talked about it officially at the time. We spoke about it amongst ourselves–there were a disproportionate number of queer workers, too.
I’m glad my co-facilitators and I can bring and hour or two of lively discussion, snacks, the occasional supplies and a few laughs to the women at the shelter, but it’s not enough by a long shot!
I will post more about this, but the politics of homelessness and in particular the attitude of the NYC Department of Homeless Services the Bloomberg administration, which has defunded a lot of programs to help people out of the shelter system as well as programs (and laws) to shelter people who need a place to stay are abominable . I didn’t say “live” cuz no one lives in a shelter, it’s temporary, or is supposed to be.
But for now, I look forward to our group tonight – it gets me out of my corporate workplace head, out of my own barely-middle-class problems and shoves reality in my face.