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VCU-led project to reduce homelessness among LGBTQ+ youth, pregnant and parenting youth receives major grant

The Virginia Housing Trust Fund grant will help implement a shared housing model with 20 youth and young adults experiencing homelessness.

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A project led by two Virginia Commonwealth University social work professors that aims to reduce homelessness among LGBTQ+ youth, pregnant and parenting youth, and young people at the intersection of these groups, has been awarded a Virginia Housing Trust Fund Homeless Reduction Grant.

Maurice N. Gattis, Ph.D., and M. Alex Wagaman, Ph.D., both associate professors in the School of Social Work and iCubed scholars in the Intersections in the Lives of LGBTQ+ Communities core at VCU, will lead the project serving young people in the counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, New Kent and Powhatan, and the city of Richmond.

Maurice N. Gattis, Ph.D.
Maurice N. Gattis, Ph.D.

The goal of the project is to implement a shared housing model over a year with 20 youth and young adults experiencing homelessness, including 10 pregnant or parenting youth and 10 LGBTQ+ youth, some of whom will be at the intersection. The idea is that the model could be implemented throughout Virginia to address homelessness among the targeted populations, which are disproportionately affected by housing insecurity and homelessness.

“The objective of the grant is to implement and do a pilot test and evaluation of a shared housing model for LGBTQ+ youth, pregnant and parenting youth, and youth at the intersection experiencing homelessness,” said Gattis, who is also senior adviser to the Queer Research and Advocacy Center, or Q Collective, at VCU.

“We have been designing this new model of service delivery in conjunction with members of the community and service providers during this past year as there is a gap in local service delivery for the unique and specific needs of the population,” Gattis said. “The pilot and testing will be helpful as we decide what the model should look like moving forward and who should deliver it.”

The project was one of 46 to receive a total of more than $8.2 million in Virginia Housing Trust Fund Homeless Reduction Grants this month, supporting projects across Virginia to reduce homelessness, including rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless, and underserved population innovation projects.

M. Alex Wagaman, Ph.D.
M. Alex Wagaman, Ph.D.

The VCU-led project, which was awarded $883,014, builds on a previous grant from the Virginia Housing Trust Fund in March 2021 that laid the groundwork for the current project to get underway.

“This grant builds on the previous award by allowing us to actually hire staff and work with landlords to implement the program that we have designed and provide services to young people experiencing homelessness in the target populations,” Gattis said.

The initial project was conducted in partnership with community organizations Advocates for Richmond Youth, Side by Side, Nationz Foundation and St. Joseph’s Villa. The planning team included representatives from each organization, as well as young people with lived experience from each of the targeted populations.

“It is rewarding to have the opportunity to merge research, intervention development and implementation in order to enhance the homeless delivery service system in Richmond,” Gattis said. “The young people on our current design team with lived experience of homelessness were so excited when we told them we get to actually open the program that we have been diligently working on.”