Sep 28, 2021 - News

D.C. LGBTQ+ shelter faces shutdown

Casa Ruby pictured in 2016

Photo: Linda Davidson for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Casa Ruby, a non-profit that provides housing, health care, and social services to LGBTQ+ people in D.C., launched a GoFundMe after the city declined to renew funding for one of its youth shelter programs.

What's happening: In a letter sent to Casa Ruby on Sept. 24 that Axios reviewed, D.C.'s Department of Human Services wrote that the organization's grant agreement for $839,000 in funding for its 50-bed low-barrier shelter will not be extended for fiscal year 2022 and will end on Sept. 30. 

  • According to Casa Ruby, 30 employees, largely LGBTQ+ people of color, are at risk of being laid off.
  • "This is going to force our clients to [find housing] into spaces they don't feel 100% comfortable," says Alexis Blackmon, Casa Ruby's Director of Government Affairs.

Flashback: Last year, DCist reported that D.C. was proposing funding cuts for a number of homeless services, including $83,000 from Casa Ruby.

  • In March, the firm VanNess Feldman, which represents Casa Ruby, filed a discrimination complaint against DHS, alleging that a DHS staff member, whose name is redacted, engaged in anti-transgender discrimination. The complaint was first reported by the Washington Blade.
  • According to the complaint, which Axios examined, that staff member is responsible for administering the grant award which allows Casa Ruby to operate its youth shelter.

In May, Casa Ruby's legal counsel pushed back on a DHS proposal to cut in half grant funding for the youth shelter and wrote to DHS that the cuts were in "violation of the clear language" of the grant agreement. This grant is not being renewed.

What they're saying: DHS Director Laura Zeilinger tells Axios in a statement that the city is not decreasing funding for LGBTQ+ youth programs and they're still being provided through the Continuum of Care.

  • "Grant renewal decisions are based on ensuring accountability and continuity of quality services and the safety of our residents. We value the community organizations who deliver these services and honor the contributions of Casa Ruby," Zeilinger says.

What's next: Casa Ruby's GoFundMe has already raised more than $34,000 of its $50,000 goal.

  • "We will be pursuing any available, legal and non-legal options that Ruby has to continue to support the shelter, either by private or by public means," Casa Ruby legal counsel Jacob Cunningham tells Axios.

Last April, DCist reported that the organization was looking to move out of its Shepard Park location after a dispute with their landlord.

  • Casa Ruby now says they will stay in the location after working out a lease.

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