After months of anticipation and fundraising, LGBT leaders, elected officials and advocates celebrated the opening of Chicago House's TransLife Center (TLC) July 15.
Stormie Williams, the first resident of the house, cut the ribbon the newly-renovated house during the morning reception.
The house, located on the city's North Side, is believed to the first of its kind. It will house nine transgender people and offer myriad serviceslike medical care, legal help and employment support.
"This will set a new model and a new standard for other cities," said Chicago House CEO Stan Sloan, addressing a crowd of community leaders and Chicago House employees.
Present at the opening were nationally-recognized transgender figures Lana Wachowski, the film director, and Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Keisling noted trials and triumphs facing trans people and the country at large in recent days, from the Trayvon Martin murder trial verdict to violence facing transgender women of color.
"Things are getting better, but people still need help, and they're going to be able to get help here," said Keisling.
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, State Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Antonio Riley, Midwest regional director for the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development also spoke. Other elected officials present included Alds. Harry Osterman and James Cappleman, state Sen. Heather Steans, Rep. Greg Harris and Mona Noriega, director of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations.
TLC is one component of new transgender initiatives at Chicago House, traditionally an HIV service organization. TLC formerly served as a hospice for people dying of AIDS, but as the death toll dropped, so did the need for house.
Chicago House began work on transgender issues in recent years after Trisha Holloway, a transgender community advocate who was using Chicago House services, reported that the agency needed to do better on trans issues.
The house is intended to be a home base for transgender services for Chicago House, but will primarily function as a transitional home for nine residents.
Designs 4 Dignity and Clune Construction transformed the four-story home, outfitting it with new finishes.
The project was made possible due to a combination of funds both from private donors and government grants. According to Sloan, funders included a national grant through the Heath Resources and Services Administration; Fred Eychaner, Jim McDonough and their Alphawood Foundation; Colonel Pritzker and Lisa Lanz from the Tawani Foundation; Todd Hamilton and James Luxton; an anonymous donor from Italy; and Lana Wachowski and her wife Karin Winslow. Other funders included the Pierce Family Foundation and the Polk Brothers Foundation.
The home is made up of nine bedrooms, a large living room with a fireplace, a new kitchen, offices, programming space and sitting room.
Trans people in need of housing will also have the option of applying for one of 30 units outside the house that Chicago House has opened up for the TransLife Project.
Bonn Wade, a well-known LGBTQ housing advocate, is heading up the TransLife Project. A number of transgender leaders have also been hired to provide services for the project. The include Judy Perloff, Channyn Parker, Angelica Ross, Owen Daniel-McCarter, Lex Lawson, Caprice Carthans, Alexis Martinez, Dee Brown, Leighana Leighton, Martina Williams and Ayanna Armstron.
First photo: The ribbon is cut on the TransLife Center on Chicago's Far North Side, front row from left: Stan Sloan, Antonio Riley, and Stormie Williams. Back: Rep. Kelly Cassidy, Mara Keisling, Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Ald. Harry Osterman. Photo by Kate Sosin
Videos by Tracy Baim
Chicago House's TransLife Center opens 7-15-2013, Stan Sloan
Chicago House's TransLife Center opens, Antonio Riley and Mara Keisling
Chicago House's TransLife Center opens 7-15-2013, Jan Schakowsky
Chicago House's TransLife Center opens 7-15-2013, Inside Tour
Chicago House's TransLife Center, Kelly Cassidy and Stomy Williams
Chicago House's TransLife Center opens 7-15-2013, Ribbon cutting