Koreatown Gets Funded for First Ever Homeless Shelter for Transgender Women

Jay Yim, Nov. 19, 2019, 5:38 p.m.


Beginning next month, more than a dozen transgender women will be set to move into a blush pink Craftsman home in the Koreatown area. This will be the area's first ever publicly funded "bridge" shelter for homeless transgender women.

The shelter is named in honor of Zulma Velasquez, who is a former staff member of APAIT, a behavioral health and HIV/AIDS service provider, who died in August. In her time alive, she would host weekly coffee talks called "Cafecito with Zulma" with the queer and transgender community members to discuss the issues they face at APAIT's office in Koreatown.

The clinical manager of APAIT, Jake Weinraub will help manage the shelter, saying that the organization will continue to carry on Velasquez's beloved traditon.

“We’re hoping to build a pretty regular schedule of programming here with ritual and sort of consistency for the residents,” he says.

The shelter, called "Casa de Zulma", will hold 16 beds and will offer supportive services, which will included psychotherapy and substance use support. The residents will be allowed to stay for 90 days, with the option to extend.

APAIT will manage the shelter with the help of Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System (HOPICS). APAIT will help the women find permanent housing while HOPICS will provide behavioral and life skills programs daily.

Veronica Lewis, director of HOPICS, said in a statement, "We recognized early on that it is critical to provide safe spaces for vulnerable populations like the transgender community. “We hope this is the first step to expanding purposeful and intentional efforts from the public sector.”

Before being funded for this project, the house was previously used for women sobriety programs. Now, the house is being converted to a homeless shelter with the support from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority in the form of $408,000.

Casa de Zulma is located within Councilman Herb Wesson's district, and as Wesson put it, will lead the "way in Los Angeles County as the first transgender housing for homeless women."

“With open arms we welcome Casa de Zulma and all of its residents to the 10th District, and thank them for protecting these members of our community,” Wesson stated.

The house will open amid increasing hate crimes toward the LGBTQ community and transgender communities. The number of crimes, according to the FBI's crime statistics report, which target transgender and gender nonconforming people spiked 41 percent in the nation since last year.

Jazzmun Crayton, who is a health and policy coordinator with APAIT, explained how we as people are prone to "violence, homelessness, substance abuse, and mental illness", and how we need to build "alliances, acquire resources, and create safe affordable spaces to dwell and live in.”

"I'd never seen the inside of a hospital or doctor's office until two years ago when I came here," he said. "I just couldn't afford to go to a doctor."
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