Mel and Alv, both workers at Caring in Bristol, make the connection between a key time in LGBTQ+ history and an exciting new project that they are working on. Here they share their thoughts in their own words…
“As Bristol prepares to celebrate Pride we take look into LGBTQ+ history and find links with our work today. As an organisation, Caring in Bristol creates and holds safe spaces and services that are affirmative for LGBTQ+ people. As staff, along with our colleagues and volunteers, we bring our own lived experience of life as LGBTQ+ people, and our everyday visibility helps to reassure others that we are a welcoming group of people to interact and work with. For us, Pride is not an isolated moment during the summer – it’s an integral part of our practice every day of the year.
PIONEERING YOUTH SHELTER
“We were interested in a period of time following the Stonewall Uprising in New York City 1969 when diverse strands of activism began to build a bigger movement. Pioneers of the time pushed LGBTQ+ issues further into the mainstream of life in the USA which influenced activism in the UK. In the year following the riots of the Stonewall Uprising, two revolutionary figures of the time were to create the first ever LGBTQ+ youth homelessness shelter in North America; Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were part of the activist group STAR (Street Transvestite* Action Revolutionaries). [*The terms Trans/Transexual were yet to be widely used.]
“It’s known that Marsha and Sylvia had started to use a trailer truck as a rudimentary sleeping place for twenty or so young people experiencing street homelessness. This was soon towed away from its Greenwich Village parking lot, but Marsha and Sylvia were not done.
SAFETY, SUPPORT, AND COMMUNITY
“They, and another STAR founder member Bubbles Rose Lee, went on to gain the use of a mafia owned building – a house at 213 East Street in East Village. This became know as the STAR House and recognised the extreme vulnerability and precarious living situations of young Trans people. The STAR House provided safety, support and community. It presented an early model for a shelter that provided these fundamental human needs. Sadly, the project came to an end following their eviction in July 1971 – just 8 months after opening, and 52 years ago this month. The building was eventually demolished, and in 2006 had been replaced by a property that sold for $2.5 million – certainly out of reach of any of Marsha and Sylvia’s contemporaries.
“Jumping forwards in time to 1995, still in NYC, and Brooklyn became home to Transy House for the following 13 years – created by Rusty Mae Moore and Chelsea Goodwin. This became a shelter for trans and non-binary people. It was also the last residence of STAR co-founder Sylvia before she died, and ended a period of street homelessness for her. Again, this shelter responded to the specific needs of its residents, understanding that mainstream provision could never adequately provide them.
INSPIRING OUR SHELTER
“Today, a quarter of Trans people will experience homelessness at some point in their lives [source: Stonewall]. A similar proportion of young people who experience homelessness are from the LGBTQ+ communities [source: AKT]. Homelessness is a significant threat to the wellbeing of young LGBTQ+ people among other issues. This is something that we are aware has been playing out for decades. This reality, and the STAR founders, have inspired us in our work in establishing what will become Bristol’s only youth homelessness shelter later this year.
“The shelter will be a safe space for all the young people who stay there, with their own unique needs. This will undoubtedly include young LGBTQ+ people. We have come a long way since the formation of the STAR House, but the same intention is just as important to us as it was to Marsha and Sylvia. A shelter that is a place of safety that is built on respect, care, and an unshakeable belief that a better future for all young people, including LGBTQ+ young people, is possible.”
Mel (she/they) and Alv (he/him)
If you’re going to Bristol Pride, come and say hi to us in the community tent, and look out for our social media posts and blogs about our new shelter and the thinking behind it coming in the next few weeks.
Post-Pride Update: See our Bristol Pride 2023 photo album.