Two North Philadelphia residents, Rusty Doll and Lisa Sipes, have been pouring resources into renovating a rowhouse for the use of homeless LGBT youth. Doll had originally purchased the home for his own use, but an encounter with a young, homeless gay man changed those plans.
Sipes and Doll, who met as neighbors in a North Philly building, are creating the LGBT “safe house” with their soon-to-be nonprofit Change Philly Today and hope to have the two-bedroom home up and running by June 1, with room for up to eight people.
The LGBT community, particularly young adults from 18 to 21, is one of the fastest-growing homeless populations in Philadelphia and the country, Doll said, and often its members feel unwelcome at home or even are forced out.
“Sometimes it’s not even the parents, it’s the shunning of the parents’ family and friends that can make it happen,” Doll said.
Doll, who works at a mental-health facility in New Jersey, purchased the North Philly rowhouse hoping to rehabilitate it and make some rent off it. Then he met a young, gay man in Philadelphia named Charles, whose plans to attend fashion school in Philadelphia had fallen apart. Charles – who could not be reached for comment – shared a secret with Doll that stuck with him as he slowly worked on his rental home.
“I asked him where he lived, and he said he lived in a shelter,” Doll said. “Charles is why I changed my mind.”