First housing development for homeless LGBTQ youths planned for Philly

 Nasir Fears talks about his struggles as an LGBT youth while Project Home's Sister Mary Scullion and Philadelphia Foundation's Pedro Ramos listen. The two organizations announced a project to bring 30 units of LGBTQ-friendly affordable housing to 1315 N. 8th Street. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Nasir Fears talks about his struggles as an LGBT youth while Project Home's Sister Mary Scullion and Philadelphia Foundation's Pedro Ramos listen. The two organizations announced a project to bring 30 units of LGBTQ-friendly affordable housing to 1315 N. 8th Street. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Nasir Fears first told his grandmother he was gay when he was 14 years old. She didn’t throw him out, but she made it clear she didn’t accept his sexuality.

“And I had left,” he said. “And it was like, ok, just do … whatever. Like, nobody actually really cared.”

Fears spent years sleeping on the subway and house-hopping.

His experience is not uniqute. Nationwide, about 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ and, like Fears, are often rejected by their families. In fact, the number of homeless young people is on the rise in Philadelphia and across the country.

In September, the Philadelphia nonprofit Project HOME plans to break ground on 30 units of affordable housing for young people between the ages of 18 and 23 with a special welcome for those who identify as LGBTQ. 

Project HOME co-founder Sister Mary Scullion said it will be the first LGBTQ-friendly affordable housing development for young people in Pennsylvania.

“This is not a shelter,” she said. “This is permanent housing with education and employment.”

The project at 1315 N. 8th St. in North Philadelphia costs $13.5 million to build. Project HOME is also trying to raise $1.5 million for services to help residents access education and training, obtain professional certifications, and find jobs. Residents will be expected to pay 30 percent of their income, no matter how much they make, toward rent and to be enrolled in an education or job training program or to be employed.

Project HOME announced Wednesday it had received $100,000 from The Philadelphia Foundation to put toward education and employment services.

Officials made the announcement at the Francis House of Peace, a 94-unit low-income housing development in Chinatown dedicated to Pope Francis, who visited the city in September 2015. The development is a partnership between Project HOME and the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation. 

It’s where Fears, now in his young 20s, has his own apartment. He also has a job doing housekeeping at Citizens Bank Park and is about to get a certificate in phlebotomy.

“That’s how it starts,” he said of his new home. “You need a stable place to get yourself together, so you have motivation to know … it’s not always going to be dark, it’s not always going to be dim.”

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