By: Lauren Walleser/TRT Assistant Editor—
NOTE: Due to unforeseen circumstances, the event to benefit the Promise Place School on April 17, 2015, at the Copley Marriott Hotel in Boston, will be rescheduled to a later date. The Promise Place School will make an announcement as soon as that new date is confirmed.
BOSTON, Mass.—After a successful Cape Cod fundraiser, The Promise Place School—a residential school aiming to provide a permanent, safe and loving home environment in Cape Cod for homeless LGBTQI youth in Massachusetts— is now planning a second fundraiser in Boston.
The Cape Cod fundraiser, held in December 2014, raised over $100K. The new fundraiser, the first annual Boston gala, will be held April 17, 2015 at the Marriott Copley Place.
Erica Kay-Webster, founder, CEO and president of The Foundation for International Justice and executive director of Promise Place School, said the school is still set to open in September this year. Chris Morgan-Janes, director of education for the school, currently heads the educational and residential team, who is in the process of finalizing the school’s curriculum, job descriptions, policies, procedures, and housing components. The teaching staff will be hired in June and according to Kay-Webster, many volunteers have stepped up and are in place to assist with the school when it opens.
“Currently in Massachusetts and nationally, we have an epidemic of homeless youth who have been thrown onto the streets simply because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender,” said Kay-Webster. “This is a silent epidemic in our country. LGBT youth comprise an astounding 40 percent of America’s estimated 2.8 million homeless youth population. Family rejection and physical abuse are the most frequently reported reasons that LGBT youth experience homelessness. For transgender youth, the situation is even worse. One in five transgender youth experience homelessness, and when they approach many shelters they are turned away due to discrimination.” [pullquote]“This is a silent epidemic in our country. LGBT youth comprise an astounding 40 percent of America’s estimated 2.8 million homeless youth population. Family rejection and physical abuse are the most frequently reported reasons that LGBT youth experience homelessness….”—Erica Kay-Webster, founder, CEO and president, Promise Place School[/pullquote]
According to Kay-Webster, research has shown that homeless youth who have been rejected by their families are 8.4 percent more likely to commit suicide, and approximately 40 percent of LGBT homeless youth will die before they turn 26 due to suicide, overdose, street violence, and murder. Fifty-eight percent of LGBT homeless youth report being victims of sexual assault, and they are more likely to be exploited through human trafficking, forced into drugs and prostitution.
“The truly unfortunate story here is that this situation has been around for decades,” said Kay-Webster. “Up until recently it was not a conversation that anyone wanted to have. The shortage of funding, caused mainly by invisibility, has made it virtually impossible to create programs like Promise Place School. For example, on Cape Cod our homeless youth under the age of 18 have no beds available to them. Currently in the Commonwealth, there are fewer than 25 beds for our youth. This is common throughout the United States. Just in the last several years, legislative action has gained traction, and with the recent passage of the Homeless Youth Act in Massachusetts, some limited funding has now become available in the Commonwealth to begin addressing this issue.”
Promise Place School will be the first of its kind in the nation to provide LGBTQI youth ages 12-24 with housing and education in one program and at the same location. Kay-Webster said the effort requires the support of the community, who “believe as we do that all youth deserve a chance in life and when given the skills to succeed, all things become possible.” She plans to continue with fundraising events across the nation. [pullquote]Promise Place School will be the first of its kind in the nation to provide LGBTQI youth ages 12-24 with housing and education in one program and at the same location.[/pullquote]
“We are building a fully sustainable model which can, and we hope, will be replicated throughout the United States,” she said.
According to a press release, “The school will be staffed by qualified professionals, offering services including a safe and stable home environment, a healthy diet, clothing, medical services, mental health services, substance abuse education, recreational and physical fitness programs, and HIV/STD testing. All students will be offered education from 6th grade and up, including a GED program, guidance counseling, life skills education and vocational skills training, college prep classes, career counseling, full continuing education scholarships, and more.”
THE BOSTON GALA will accommodate up to 1,000 attendees, a larger gathering than the one held on the Cape. It
will feature an awards ceremony, a live and silent auction, and entertainment by the Peregrine Theatre Ensemble of Provincetown, Mass., headlined by Adam Berry, actor, singer, and paranormal investigator as seen in the SyFy series “Ghost Hunters.”
“It is extremely important to support our youth, especially during the time of adolescence and young adult years,” said Adam Berry, executive producer, Peregrine Theatre Ensemble. “Kids who ‘dare to be different’ need a support system around that nurtures and educates in a comfortable nonjudgmental environment. When there is nowhere else to turn, Promise Place School will be there to help them, leaving less opportunity for kids to get desperate or follow a dangerous path. Suicide is up, bullying is rampant—always has been—and there needs to be a light at the end of a dark tunnel.”
Berry expressed why this cause is particularly important to the Peregrine Theatre Ensemble.
“[We] support diversity of all kinds,” Berry said. “We are a theatre company where most of us growing up felt that while in the theater or performing we could be what we wanted to be. We could be whoever we naturally were and be surrounded with others who felt the exact same way. It was our support system. We know from experience how basic the need of encouragement and understanding really is. This school can be that to many who might not have had any other chance.”
Berry shared that the Ensemble’s performance at the Gala will showcase their work from their sold out run of the musical “RENT,” new material that fits with the theme of the evening, and a sneak peek at their 2015 summer production of “CARRIE the musical.”
Letters of invitation will be sent to Governor Charlie Baker, State Senator Dan Wolf, U.S. Congressman Bill Keating, State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Boston City Councilors Michelle Wu, Tito Jackson and Ayanna Pressley, and many other celebrities and personalities, including Cyndi Lauper.
“We are truly grateful to Cyndi Lauper for her determined efforts though her True Colors Fund and her most recent partnership with HUD [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] and the LGBTQ Youth Homelessness Prevention Initiative,” said Kay-Webster. “We also applaud HUD Secretary Julian Castro for his strong support for this partnership, which has also been encouraged and supported by President Obama.”
Award honorees at the 2015 Boston gala will include Congressman Joe Kennedy (Ally Advocate Award); State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (Commitment to Educational Excellence Award); Carl Sciortino, executive director of AIDS Action Committee (Building Healthier Communities Award); Joe Finn, president and executive Director of Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance (Creating Hope Award); Diego Sanchez, director of policy, PFLAG National (Lifetime Achievement Award); and Elisabeth Jackson, executive director of Bridge Over Troubled Waters (Youth Advocate Award). [pullquote]”…The Promise Place School’s mission on behalf of these young people is an important and much needed new resource for our entire community, and so we are excited to support their efforts as they move forward.”—Grace Sterling Stowell, executive director of the Boston Alliance of LGBTQ Youth[/pullquote]
Eastern Bank, who also sponsored the Cape event, has signed on as the Boston event’s first Platinum sponsor. Additional sponsors will be announced soon.
“Throughout the fight for marriage equality we have spent millions of dollars to gain this crucial right to freedom for our adult community, but what are we doing to support the right to a basic human life and the rights for our LGBT youth in this nation?” said Kay-Webster. “Leaving our youth in this disgraceful situation is something we must rectify. Personally, for me, this is a life mission I will not turn my back on or walk away from. Our youth are our future and it is our obligation to take immediate action.”
Grace Sterling Stowell, executive director of the Boston Alliance of LGBTQ Youth (BAGLY, Inc.) also shared why the work of Promise Place School is so important.
“Due to lack of family support, societal stigmatization, discrimination and violence, LGBTQI youth are disproportionately represented among the homeless youth population in Massachusetts and throughout the nation,” said Sterling Stowell. “It is critically important that these young people are able to obtain housing, education and other resources that are culturally competent in addressing their needs. The Promise Place School’s mission on behalf of these young people is an important and much needed new resource for our entire community, and so we are excited to support their efforts as they move forward.”
Tickets for the event go on sale March 15. For more information, tickets, sponsorship inquiries and opportunities, visit www.promiseplaceschool.org or call (774) 330-3106.