This article is part of our 2021 contribution to the D.C. Homeless Crisis Reporting Project in collaboration with other local newsrooms. The collective works will be published throughout the day at DCHomelessCrisis.press.
Casa Ruby, an LGBTQ social services and programs center, has been forced to shut down important services after the District pulled funding for the shelter.
Casa Ruby is being forced to slash key services, including its low-barrier shelter, after the Washington, D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS) pulled an $850,000 funding grant that sustained its operations. Because the DHS canceled funding, Casa Ruby can no longer offer overnight stays at the Georgia Avenue shelter nor maintain 24-hour drop-in services for those seeking services. Following the Sept. 24 DHS announcement, Ruby Corado, the shelter’s founder, resigned from her role as executive director.
According to Alexis Blackmon (GRD ’21), interim executive director of Casa Ruby, staff first learned the grant was being pulled when the DHS sent the shelter a letter notifying them that they were defunding the shelter, offering no explanation.
“The letter that we received basically stated that it was in the city’s discretion to remove grants as they see fit,” Blackmon said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “They didn’t give us a specific reason.”
The DHS did not respond to The Hoya’s request for comment.
Corado launched a GoFundMe page Sept. 25 in an effort to raise funds to keep remaining beds in other Casa Ruby shelters — such as its transitional living program for LGBTQ youth — for individuals in need across the District.
The page has received over $100,000 in donations as of Oct. 6, which will go toward preventing other services and resources at Casa Ruby from shutting down in the future, according to Blackmon.
“That money is for us to focus on how to be self solvent,” Blackmon said. “We can build something so that this won’t happen to us in the future.”
Casa Ruby is the only LGBTQ, bilingual and multicultural organization in Washington, D.C., according to its website. Founded in June 2012 by Corado and a small group of volunteers, Casa Ruby now has approximately 50 employees and provides assistance to an estimated 6,000 people annually.
The same week the DHS discontinued Casa Ruby’s funding, the agency awarded Covenant House Greater Washington, a nonprofit that provides housing and resources to youth experiencing homelessness, a $648,000 grant to fund its program SHINE, which provides short-term housing for LGBTQ youth.
SHINE opened Oct. 1 in Northeast Washington. The location has 24 residential beds and residents can stay for up to 90 days. SHINE offers services tailored specifically to be helpful for LGBTQ youth, such as workforce development curricula, according to Angela Jones Hackley, chief executive officer at Covenant House Greater Washington.
SHINE aims to help LGBTQ youth ages 18 to 24 in the District who are experiencing homelessness find opportunities and independence, according to Hackley.
“Our goal is to work with these youth, their passion and promise, such that are able to move out of the homelessness and sustain themselves after they leave us,” Hackley wrote in an email to The Hoya.
According to Hackley, SHINE will ensure that individuals are treated with the love and respect they deserve while they are residents in the housing program.
“We don’t tolerate our young people; we celebrate them, all of them, including youth who identify as LGBTQ,” Hackley wrote.
According to Blackmon, the agency’s decision to defund Casa Ruby will take away a key resource for LGBTQ individuals experiencing homelessness in the District.
“This is a program that has been around in the city for a long time, and it’s one of the first trans-run and led operations in the District,” Blackmon said. “It’s very sad that the city, instead of trying to help this specific population keep the things that they have, that they are just willing to dismantle it and tear it apart.”