Through this project, we use the Housing First model to help folks move in and stay in permanent housing and the live the lives they want to lead. We are currently housing nearly 40 trans and non-binary folks. Please visit our website to learn more!
Who I Am
My name is Jesse Pratt López. I am a Trans Latina from Colombia who calls Atlanta home. I use my experiences as a documentary photographer and grassroots activist to help folks from my community use their voices to resist systems of oppression and step into their own power. I am also now the full-time co-director of the Trans Housing Coalition. You can check out my photography at www.jprattlopez .photos.
Where We Started
I started this fund in mid-December 2019 to help a small group of Trans sisters I had met through ReVon Michaels López, my trans daughter.
ReVon is a Sagittarius with a huge smile and laugh, and an even bigger appetite. I first met her when she was strutting down the sidewalk in front of a Publix in downtown Atlanta. She was wrapped in a large blanket; her wig haphazardly placed upon her head and her curls as big as her smile. She asked if I could spare some change. I was about to tell her no, I don’t carry cash and I’m broke. But when I took a closer look, I realized at that moment that I was seeing my sister. My Trans sister. One of the Gurlz. A T-Slur as they like to call us on PornHub.com.
I quickly told her that she looked beautiful and that I would be right back with some cash and a sandwich and when I returned, she was so happy to see me. I asked her if I could take her picture; I didn’t want to forget her.. The rest is her-story.
I would come back every couple of days to visit ReVon, or she would come to my house. We hung out, shared food, and she introduced me to the other girls who live and work on the Hoe Stroll – Piedmont Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia.
These girls have been discarded and abandoned by society. They told me stories about getting raped, robbed, shot, and almost killed. Survival sex work has been, historically, the only profession that many Trans women have been able to succeed in. Many girls, especially when they don’t “pass” for society’s ideal archetype of what a woman should be, are denied jobs, housing, and opportunities. How can you exist in a society that believes that you shouldn’t even exist?
I started documenting the lives of the homeless Black trans women of the Hoe Stroll on Piedmont Ave in Atlanta, GA. While creating this body of work, I walked the stroll with them, not only in order to walk in their shoes, but also because as a Trans woman myself who has experienced housing insecurity, I realized that I had never met another Trans woman who hasn’t dealt with housing insecurity and who didn’t have to do sex work to survive at some point.
Ever since that fateful day I became really close with ReVon—and the circle of my chosen family became a little bit bigger. I came back every couple days and hung out with and took care of ReVon and the other girls who live and work on the Hoe Stroll on Piedmont Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia. ReVon calls me Mom, I call her daughter. And sometimes the roles are reversed: in the Trans community, we are each other’s elders.
The Fund: Where It Began and Where It’s Going
Once we became close, ReVon and the girls would share stories about the violence they experienced on the streets of Atlanta: getting raped, robbed, shot, and almost killed. Survival sex work has historically been the only profession that many Trans women have been able to succeed in. Many girls, especially when they don’t pass for society’s ideal archetype of what a woman should be, are denied jobs, housing, and other opportunities.
Through my photography and presence in the Atlanta queer and trans arts and organizing community, I saw a chance to get the girls the support and resources they needed. After initially raising $10,000 through this fund, I was able to secure them temporary housing through the winter holidays and assist with getting them necessities such as food, cell phones, clothes, and spending money. Eventually, I was also able to connect some of the girls to Jayme Stegar, the Lead Trans Outreach Specialist at Someone Cares Atlanta Jayme was able to assist in finding two of the girls a room in a rooming house led by Trans people. She has also been instrumental in connecting the girls to STI (sexually-transmitted infections) testing services and ensuring that they have the support to manage their immediate needs.
Unfortunately, by April 2020, we had run out of funds, at a time where the need was more pressing than ever in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through contributions from so many generous people, we were able to raise an additional $10,000.
Shortly after meeting this second goal, as uprisings ignited across the country to protest the murder and injustice faced by Black lives, this campaign received a resurgence of support. With over 70,000 donors, we have been able to raise $2 million and the fund continues to grow. With this renewed support, it became clear that we can achieve positive, sustainable, and permanent changes for the larger community of Black & Brown Trans women in Atlanta.
In June, we created a community advisory board with local Trans-led organizations such as Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative , Southern Fried Queer Pride and the Trans Atlanta Housing Program , as well as service providers such as Someone Cares Atlanta , to begin working on a plan composed of smart goals for this transformed project. Further, I’ve been talking with the girls about their hopes for the future: what they need to build a stable foundation and what is now possible thanks to your support.
With guidance and assistance from these organizations, we were able to establish the Trans Housing Coalition. We utilize the Pathways Housing First model , based on the idea that “nothing in any person’s history or present precludes them from being able to be housed.” I have benefited greatly from the wise and kind input of Dr. Sam Tsemberis, the founder of Pathways to Housing in New York and originator of the Housing First model. Whether this project looks like funding for existing Trans-led providers or the creation of a new organization is yet to be determined.
Our goal is and always will be to establish permanent housing in Atlanta for Trans people, particularly Black Trans women who are experiencing chronic homelessness and to ensure they have the wraparound services necessary to thrive.
If you want to support this, you can also donate directly to us, and avoid the GoFundMe transaction fee:
PayPal: info @ TransHousingCoalition.org
Venmo: @PaegeTurner (last 4 #s: 6509)
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