The co-founder of an organization that cares for homeless LGBTQ youth launched a new group on Monday with plans to house LGBTQ people in need in rented homes, tiny houses and shipping container apartments.
Rainbow House Coalition is the brainchild of Rick Westbrook, who helped launch Lost N Found Youth in 2011. Westbrook resigned from LNF in May citing disagreements with the board on how to move the organization forward.
Westbrook appeared in a Facebook Live video on Monday to announce Rainbow House Coalition, He said the organization's goal will be to “to move the needle and affect change to not just the youth but the LGBTQ community as a whole, and we’re talking into the future possibly seniors.”
“There’s never enough housing for these kids. Some of these kids, when I left [Lost N Found], we had kids that had fulltime jobs and were still living in tents under a bridge,” Westbrook said. “With this new nonprofit, we can go out and rent the houses, we’ll work with the city on tiny houses and container homes.”
Westbrook is the coalition's executive director. Other team members include Victor Brady, deputy executive director, and Adam Rimes in accounting and finance, Chris Griswold in events coordination and fundraising, and Mark D. Gibson in communications.
“Rainbow House Coalition will provide new and innovative affordable housing for those experiencing homelessness or who are on the verge of being so in the Atlanta LGBTQ community,” Brady said in the video.
“Once the housing need is met, we will work in collaboration with agencies that have been fully vetted to provide wraparound services for the population in question,” Brady added.
He said Rainbow House Coalition will use house rentals, tiny homes and shipping container apartments to provide shelter for clients.
Westbrook said the organization will place clients in a housing unit and have them sign a rental contract to help build their rental history. The clients 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.
“So if they’re with us for 30 days, six months, a year and they’ve met all the requirements, they will get a final inspection and we will write them a check for what they have in the bank at that point so that they have something to build on,” Westbrook said.
Westbrook also said he'll work “hand-in-hand” with his former organization Lost N Found, which he said provides “incredible wraparound services.” Rainbow House Coalition will only provide housing and refer clients to other agencies to meet their needs, including Lost N Found, CHRIS 180 and Covenant House.
He said he’s met with Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore and other City Councilmembers to talk about the issue and the new organization.
Organizers of Rainbow House Coalition are spending time in October establishing its nonprofit status. In the meantime, Westbrook said Rainbow House Coalition is an umbrella project of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes for however long it takes,” Westbrook said. “If this works, it will not only help the city eradicate homelessness across the board, but we can take it to other cities around the Southeast.”