Shelter for homeless transgender youth opening in Atlanta

A five-bedroom shelter to provide housing for Atlanta’s homeless transgender youth will open on March 1 in the West End.

The shelter is a project of Rainbow House Coalition, a homeless LGBTQ youth organization created by Rick Westbrook, a co-founder of Lost N Found Youth.

Westbrook (top photo) said they signed the lease in late January and will get the keys to the shelter on Friday.

“I looked at hundreds of houses,” Westbrook told Project Q Atlanta. “This house has five bedrooms. Each door on the bedroom locks with its own key. Each bedroom has its own bathroom. It’s like it was built from the ground up for us.”

Westbrook said the shelter's residents will sign a rental contract to help build their rental history. The residents will pay rent, and Rainbow House Coalition will put half of it towards housing expenses and the other half will be put into a trust fund, which the residents receive back when they leave the shelter.

“This first [shelter] is specially geared toward trans youth because there’s so many out there who can’t find a place to live. These are the ones at risk of becoming homeless or are graduating from the programs at Lost N Found, Covenant House or CHRIS 180,” he said.

Westbrook launched Rainbow House Coalition last October. The plan included housing LGBTQ youth ages 18 to 25 in rented homes, tiny houses and shipping container apartments.

He said the tiny house and shipping container apartment programs will take “a year or more” and that he hopes to sit down with City of Atlanta officials to talk about it soon.

In the meantime, Westbrook said they will continue to raise funds.

“We have the money for this house,” he said. “What I want to do is raise money for the next one. There are a thousand kids out there every night.”

A 2016 Georgia State University study said that there were around 950 homeless LGBTQ youth in metro Atlanta.

Rainbow House Coalition will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new West End shelter on Feb. 23. Time and other details are still being ironed out and we’ll update this story as they become available.

Westbrook helped launch Lost N Found in 2011. He resigned last May citing disagreements with the board on how to move the organization forward.