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“Pride Place” at Virginia Home for Boys and Girls aims to reduce homelessness of LGBTQ+ young adults

At no cost to participants, the Pride Place at VHBG program will provide safe, transitional housing for 14-18 homeless LGBTQ+ young adults annually who are between the ages of 18- 25. Side by Side will provide the case management, intake and overall support for LGBTQ+ young adults while VHBG will provide the physical space, emergency response and opportunities for learning life skills.

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Virginia Home for Boys and Girls (VHBG) and Side by Side have launched a partnership called Pride Place at VHBG to serve LGBTQ+ young people experiencing homelessness.

“LGBTQ+ young people are 120% more likely to experience homelessness compared to their peers. Although this was all the case before COVID-19, the pandemic is exacerbating an already growing problem and we are bracing for an increase in need from our community,” said Ted Lewis, Side by Side executive director.

At no cost to participants, the Pride Place at VHBG program will provide safe, transitional housing for 14-18 homeless LGBTQ+ young adults annually who are between the ages of 18- 25. Side by Side will provide the case management, intake, and overall support for LGBTQ+ young adults while VHBG will provide the physical space, emergency response, and opportunities for learning life skills. Clients will be paired with Peer Navigators through a partnership with the Nationz Foundation. Each client has their timeline for length of stay, but will typically live at the residence from two to six months.

“Virginia Home for Boys and Girls and Side by Side share a mission to provide care to young people in crisis. Our trauma-informed approach is infused into all of our transitional living services, including our Independent Living Arrangement (ILA) program that provides a strong foundation for Pride Place at VHBG,” said Claiborne Warner, VHBG president.

The Pride Place at VHBG program will be located in two brick homes on VHBG’s 30+ acre campus in Henrico County. Originally built to house staff, these well-equipped homes provide private bedrooms, and communal living and kitchen space.

One of the homes recently underwent a complete remodel through a donation from Lowe’s Home Improvement. Lowe’s also recently provided kitchen appliances for use in the second home. Homes are fully furnished and equipped with necessities including bedding and kitchen gear thanks to volunteers from Thalhimers, Pay It Forward, and Costco.

Pride Place at VHBG brings together two strong, successful nonprofits, drawing the perfect blend of expertise in independent living arrangements, trauma-informed care, LGBTQ+ specific needs, and youth services to reach a specific population of homeless young people who otherwise are likely to face living on the streets.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, we are expediting our efforts to match the rapidly growing need. The moratorium on evictions extends only till May 31, so our partnership launch is in time for a possible spike in homelessness. Our homes are already constructed for independent living situations and our organizational partnership formed before the pandemic, so we can move quickly and anticipate opening the homes in June to meet the immediate need,” stated Warner.

About the issue

  • Side by Side along with partners at the Nationz Foundation and the Virginia Anti-Violence Project launched a Host Home program last year but recognized that multiple safe and affirming housing options for youth were needed.
  • LGBTQ+ youth are at a greater risk for homelessness. 40 percent of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ+, yet LGBTQ+ youth-only account for 9 percent of the youth population.
  • Locally, the Youth Count study by Advocates for Richmond Youth showed 35% of youth in Richmond who are experiencing housing instability identify as LGBTQ+.
  • LGBTQ+ youth face homelessness and housing instability at disproportional and alarming rates, but there are currently few housing services in our region specifically for them to address this problem.
  • Family conflict is the most common cause of all youth homelessness. For LGBTQ+ youth, in particular, the conflict tends to be over their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness are more likely to be robbed, physically or sexually assaulted, or be a victim of a hate crime.
  • A 2019 report from the Williams Institute noted that 22% of the LGBTQ+ community live in poverty compared to 16% of the general population, putting our LGBTQ+ youth at risk for falling through the cracks and into homelessness.
  • LGBTQ+ people, particularly LGBTQ+ young adults, are overrepresented in the restaurant and food industry, which has been devastated by the pandemic.
  • LGBTQ+ youth often don’t have a family connection to fall back on and seek support from. As a result, those who are newly unemployed are not far from being newly homeless.
  • One of the homes recently underwent a complete remodel thanks to the generosity of Lowe’s Home Improvement. Lowe’s also recently donated kitchen appliances for use in the second home.
  • Homes are fully furnished and equipped with necessities including bedding and kitchen gear thanks to volunteers from Thalhimer, Pay It Forward, and Costco.
  • Participants of the Pride Place at VHBG program will also have access to VHBG’s ILA Commons, a communal gathering space that includes a computer room, exercise room, relaxation room, and recreational equipment.
  • Side by Side regularly receives referrals from other homeless services agencies including Homeward, the Possibilities Project, and the McKinney Vento Project. Additionally, Side by Side has built strong relationships with St. Joseph’s Villa and their new youth outreach program to identify youth experiencing homelessness in the City as well as Commonwealth Catholic Charities and Advocates for Richmond Youth’s new Youth Hub. Referrals are also received from local foster care agencies, youth detention centers, and area hospitals.

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Government

UMFS opens new $11 million residential center to enhance youth behavioral, mental health treatment

After an investment of more than $11 million, a longstanding residential treatment program that delivers trauma-informed care to youth working to overcome emotional and behavioral challenges has created a new multipurpose treatment center focused on healing.

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After an investment of more than $11 million, a longstanding residential treatment program that delivers trauma-informed care to youth working to overcome emotional and behavioral challenges has created a new multipurpose treatment center focused on healing.

UMFS, a statewide nonprofit leader in child and family services, has officially unveiled the transformation of its Child & Family Healing Center (CFHC). The state-of-the-art center took a year to complete. Previously, youth enrolled in CFHC lived in five separate cottages, originally built in the 1950s.

The 33,600-square foot center includes five residential suites, each accessible by separate entrances. Designed intentionally to promote safety and complement program enhancements, CFHC’s five identical suites each have a common area, full kitchen, group therapy room, family room, meeting space, and 10 private bedrooms and bathrooms. The center, which includes office space for administration and staff, can accommodate 50 youth.

CFHC serves youth ages 11-17 who are experiencing mood and anxiety disorders, emotional, social, and behavioral challenges and other traumas. Therapists, mentors, teachers, psychiatrists, nurses and other staff support the youth who live on campus as they focus on healing and building life skills.

“The new Child & Family Healing Center continues our long tradition of excellence in providing effective, high-quality residential care for youth,” said UMFS President and CEO Nancy Toscano, Ph.D., LCSW. “We intentionally designed the space utilizing a trauma-informed approach to promote healing in a safe and affirming environment. The upgraded center will help create normalcy while respecting a child’s need for independence during treatment.”

The center is one of the state’s only youth residential treatment programs to employ a “hybrid” security model, where youth can move freely throughout each suite and have supervised access to school, green spaces, a gym and other recreation on UMFS’ 33-acre campus. For safety, the building is regularly secured from evening to morning, and staff can secure each suite on an as-needed basis.

The CFHC marks the completion of Phase 1 of UMFS’ Be a Champion capital campaign, which aims to transform the educational and residential resources on its Richmond campus. Hundreds of donors and partners have contributed to the effort so far.

Phase 2 of the campaign is underway and will include an addition to the nonprofit’s Charterhouse School, a specialized educational program for K-12 youth who have special needs. The planned addition will allow UMFS to enhance its student services and expand programs. Demolition for Phase 2 will begin soon, and UMFS expects to break ground on the school addition this spring.

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Downtown

Local Asian American Society of Central Virginia to host author and artist of new book

Author Joe Kutchera and artist Alfonso Pérez Acosta teamed up on the new coffee table art book, which features the portraits and stories of 22 immigrants who have come to Richmond from around the world to become our neighbors.

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The Asian American Society of Central Virginia (AASoCV) will host a local author and artist this weekend to present their new book, Portraits of Immigrant Voices, at its 24th annual Asian America Celebration tomorrow.

Author Joe Kutchera and artist Alfonso Pérez Acosta teamed up on the new coffee table art book, which features the portraits and stories of 22 immigrants who have come to Richmond from around the world to become our neighbors.

Alfonso Pérez Acosta painted the original portraits while Joe Kutchera wrote the personal histories. The author’s proceeds will benefit Afghan and Asian refugees who have settled in Virginia in a fund set up and managed by The Asian American Society of Central Virginia, a non-profit charitable 501(c)(3) organization.

The event is free and open to the general public. The pair will present the book on stage at 2pm and immediately following, AASoCV will host a book signing at 2:30pm. The book will be on sale for $40 at the event.

The 24th Annual Asian American Celebration features cultural performances, food, hands-on activities, exhibition booths, and merchandise from the Asian American communities in Central Virginia. This year’s theme is “weddings and our heritage.” The Celebration will take place at the Greater Richmond Convention Center at 403 North Third Street, Richmond VA 23219 from 11am to 7pm.

Learn more here.

The introduction to the book follows below:

Stories of Gratitude, Progress, and Manifesting Dreams

By Joe Kutchera

During the fall of 2020, following the George Floyd protests along Richmond’s Monument Avenue, I saw an African American woman wearing a t-shirt with this message in bold letters.

I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams.

As a (white) writer, I was stunned at how one sentence could leave me speechless and make me feel such a wide range of emotions. At first, I felt infinitesimally small, humbled by the brutal African American history behind that sentence, reflecting the violence and intimidation that Black Americans experienced during slavery and Jim Crow, which kept them from America’s prosperity. And seconds later, the sentence made me feel incredibly hopeful as it communicated that great progress and change is indeed possible, measured through a multi-generational lens, taking into account the sacrifice and suffering of previous generations. The formerly wild dream of freedom and opportunity is now, we hope, finally possible for African Americans today, though we still have a long way to go to ensure equitable outcomes for all Americans.

Many Americans may know Richmond, Virginia (RVA) for its history as the capital of the Confederacy with its Civil War Museum and the now-removed statues of Robert E. Lee and Confederate generals along Monument Avenue. The ugly history of slavery and the myth of the ‘Lost Cause’ permeate so much of the city, but a more complex and hopeful picture of its citizens is emerging.

In decades past, a majority of RVA’s population has been Black, with Whites representing most of the remainder of its population. Yet, a more multicultural, and even international population, is growing out of RVA’s Black and White history. The 2020 Census shows that RVA’s African American population fell below 50%, while its White population increased as a result of gentrification. Blacks appear to have left Richmond City for the suburbs (Henrico and Chesterfield Counties), where the Black population increased. Yet, the Asian and Hispanic/Latino population grew by double digits in Richmond City, Henrico and Chesterfield Counties, and the people who selected “some other race” and “two or more races” grew by triple digits. This reflects an increase in children of interracial couples, immigrants from Africa (distinct from African Americans), as well as ‘mestizos,’ or people of mixed races, from Latin America. However small those populations might be now, the growth rates indicate that RVA, like the rest of the country, is becoming much more diverse.

With this in mind, I am grateful to be working with the Asian American Society of Central Virginia in sponsoring the publication of this book. AASoCV represents 18 diverse Asian communities that have stood up against racism and xenophobia, as described by AASoCV’s chair, Julie Laghi, in the foreword. AASoCV provides a perfect example of how people from vastly different language groups can come together to build community and cultural bridges, thereby promoting tolerance and diversity.

AASoCV has enabled me and the team involved behind this book to take this project to the next level, furthering our mission to share immigrant stories and reflect on how they embody the American dream. Tida Tep, the daughter of Pim Bhut, featured on page 70, joins us to visually bring these stories into the printed medium.

Our project initially began in an organic way. In August 2020, around the time that I saw the “I am my ancestors’ wildest dream” t-shirt, I received a call from Karla Almendarez-Ramos, who manages the City of Richmond’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Engagement (OIRE). She asked me if I would be interested in and available to write profiles of immigrants as a celebration for National Immigrants’ Day on October 28, 2020. Richmond-based Colombian artist, teacher and muralist, Alfonso Pérez Acosta, had pitched the idea to Karla after crafting his initial computer-drawn portraits.

I immediately told her yes, that I would love to work on the project. I have written about and reflected on the subject of immigrants’ journeys previously, both interviewing recent immigrants and researching my own ancestors immigrating from Eastern Europe to the United States. My wife, Lulu, migrated from Mexico, to join me in Richmond in 2013. And previously, I had migrated to Mexico and the Czech Republic for work, during different chapters of my life. As a result, I also understand the immense challenges that immigrants face when moving to a new country.

National Immigrants’ Day has been celebrated since 1986, but mostly in places like New York City. We wanted to bring this celebration to Richmond, Virginia to highlight the diversity of its community and the variety of languages spoken (in addition to English). With the support of a grant from Virginia Humanities, we unveiled the portraits on October 28th, National Immigrants Day, on RVAStrong.org/portraits and published updates regularly through Thanksgiving, to honor our subject’s themes of gratitude. The exhibit’s social media campaign ran through December 18th, which the United Nations has named International Migrants Day as a testament to humanity’s “will to overcome adversity and live a better life.”

Many of the people we featured came as migrants initially, moving to the U.S. temporarily for work or educational opportunities. While others came as refugees, fleeing war and violence. And still others came here simply because they fell in love with an American! Yet, they all became immigrants when they decided to settle down permanently in the United States.

Each portrait features the subject’s name, country of origin, and language, written in both English and their respective language. To create the color behind each portrait, Alfonso blended all the colors from each subject’s flag of their home country to formulate that single, albeit blended color. For example, the red and white in the Swiss flag become pink behind Dominik Meier’s portrait (on page 62). I wrote personal histories to accompany each portrait to shed light on the challenges of migration and displacement, as well as explore the commonalities of learning to speak English and integrating into American culture. Their stories showcase the incredible creativity and ingenuity of these immigrants in overcoming numerous obstacles in their journey, some of whom have gone on to start companies and obtain graduate degrees.

In speaking with everyone we featured in this book, they have taught me how Richmond is a far more diverse and dynamic city than I ever realized. They truly appreciate America’s freedom, democracy, and the way that their neighbors have accepted them. As a result, I see Richmond and the United States through their eyes. In listening to their stories, I get the sense that they, too, have accomplished their dreams, and in some cases, even their ancestors’ wildest dreams.

“Virginia is for lovers. … But we need to keep that slogan alive,” says Mahmud Chowdhury, originally from Bangladesh (#19 in the series), referring to the state motto of Virginia. “Let’s continue to love each other, be our brother’s keeper and have each other’s back,” says Hannah Adesina, from Nigeria (#17 in the series). Immigrants are here “to demonstrate the best of ourselves, manifest our hopes and dreams,” says Brenda Aroche, from Guatemala (#13 in the series). And Ping Chu from China (#12 in the series) encourages us all in saying, “We need to build up a united country. This is the United States, right?”

The United States has an individualistic culture with an “I” oriented English language. Even though that is the case, the immigrants featured in this book have taught me that when we work together and support one another, WE can become our ancestors’ wildest dreams.

When Chinese New Year celebrations took place on February 1, 2022, the same day that Black History Month began, I learned that 2022 was the year of the tiger. I realized that 2022 couldn’t be a more perfect year for us to launch this book with a symbol of bravery, courage, and strength on our side.

Joe Kutchera is the author of four books and the founder of Latino Link Advisors where he develops digital marketing and content strategies, with an emphasis in reaching the U.S. Hispanic market.

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Education

Inauguration of University of Richmond’s 11th president slated for April 8th

The inauguration of Kevin F. Hallock as the University of Richmond’s 11th president is a celebration of the UR community and will showcase student research, a conversation on higher education with presidents, live music, food, and fireworks. The event is open to the public.

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The inauguration of Kevin F. Hallock as the University of Richmond’s 11th president is slated to be a celebration of the U of R community and will showcase student research, a conversation on higher education with presidents, live music, food, and fireworks. The event is open to the public.

“Inauguration affords us an opportunity to take stock of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going as an institution,” Hallock said. “I’m immensely proud to be part of a community that has worked so hard to empower students of all backgrounds to take full advantage of the outstanding and distinctive education we offer.”

The event schedule includes:

  • Celebrating Spider Success in Mentored Research: A Discussion, 3 p.m., April 7, Queally Center for Admission and Career Services
  • Inauguration Ceremony, 10:30 a.m., April 8, Robins Center
  • Community Festival, 12:30-3 p.m., April 8, Westhampton Green
  • The Future of Higher Education: A Conversation with University Presidents, 3:30 p.m., April 8, Queally Center for Admission and Career Services
  • Evening Celebration, 7-9:45 p.m., April 8, Millhiser Green in front of the Well-Being Center
  • Spring Football Game (scrimmage), 1 p.m., April 9, Robins Stadium

All events are open to the larger community, and those planning to attend in person should register. Livestreams will be available for several events.

During the inauguration ceremony, Hallock will speak about five priorities: access and affordability, academic excellence, belonging, well-being, and engagement with the greater Richmond community.

“We’ve already done so much terrific work in all of these areas, but as I’ve listened and learned from our community’s diverse views, I’ve recognized we can and should do even better in these areas and invest more of our energy and resources going forward,” Hallock said. “Everyone cares and wants to make the University of Richmond even better. I share that commitment and am so grateful to be a member of this amazing community.”

Prior to coming to Richmond, Hallock spent a total of 26 years on the faculties of the University of Illinois and Cornell University. Most recently, he was dean of Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business.

An award-winning teacher, Hallock is a labor market economist and author or editor of 11 books and more than 100 publications. His research has focused on the gender pay gap, executive compensation, and job loss. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University.

He is a fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

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