GUEST BLOG: KATIE ELLIS INTERVIEWS JENNI WHITE OF TRINITY HAVEN

Hey ELEVATE attendees! Katie Ellis here – Marketing Director for RJE Business Interiors and avid supporter of United Way of Central Indiana. As a member of ELEVATE’s planning committee, I’m proud to be part of another successful gala honoring the young philanthropists of our region.

You may have heard that funds raised from ELEVATE 2020 will support safe, affordable housing in Central Indiana, and to bring awareness to some of the organizations already addressing this issue, I caught up with Trinity Haven’s Executive Director, Jenni White, for a quick Q&A about how they are committed to housing for the LGBTQ community.

Check out my interview with Jenni below – and be sure to snag your tickets to Indy’s greatest philanthropic celebration under the Big Top on February 29, 2020!

Q: Who saw the need for Trinity Haven and where did it stem from? 

Trinity Haven was born from a conversation with some folks from Indiana Youth Group (IYG) and Trinity Episcopal Church. Trinity Episcopal Church had engaged IYG to see if there was an unmet need that their congregation could support. IYG informed them that nearly 40 – 65 LGBTQ youth approach IYG every month without a place to stay. Given that there are no dedicated housing options for LGBTQ youth here in Indianapolis, developing Trinity Haven felt like the best next step to help these teens. 

Q. Is Trinity Haven a faith-based organization? 

No, it is not. Trinity Episcopal Church has a long history of incubating non-profit startups in Indianapolis and they felt particularly tied to this cause because LGBTQ youth often face homelessness due to the misapplication of religious teachings in their homes. We kept Trinity as part of the organization’s name as an homage to the church’s role in its foundation, but also to let the residents know that there are people of faith that who love them and believe there is no shame in being who you are. 

Q. UWCI’s ELEVATE event is focused on shedding light to the housing crisis in Indianapolis. How does Trinity Haven alleviate housing insecurity for LGTBQ teens? 

Trinity Haven will be an extended living home for 10 displaced LGTBQ teens. It’s considered transitional housing, so each guest can be in the home for a maximum of 24 months. However, we know that each individual will have their own journey and could be ready to move on in a shorter amount of time. During their time at Trinity Haven, we will focus on developing their independent living skills. In addition, all guests at Trinity Haven will be required to obtain their high school equivalency degree. We will work directly with the Department of Child Services, so most of our guests will come as a referral from them, but we will also maintain a few private placement spots as well. We truly hope that we can act as a safe haven for these individuals and offer them the skills they need to be successful in life.

Q. What goes into the independent living programming at Trinity Haven? 

We will cover so many essential life skills — everything from meal planning, chore assignments, financial education, fitness. We will also offer various types of therapy. Each teen will work with a case manager and care coordinator to navigate their goals and Trinity Haven will support employment goals and job placement when the residents are ready for that next step. 

Q. How has Trinity Haven partnered with United Way of Central Indiana? 

We were thrilled to be awarded a grant as part of UWCI’s Social Innovation Fund for filling an unmet need here in the city and state. We are very excited to partner with United Way for this endeavor and get started! 

Q. What’s next for Trinity Haven?

We hope to be open by mid-year and fully occupied by the end of 2020. In the future, I hope we are thriving as a transitional housing program and serve as a model agency for others so the concept can be replicated in support of LGBTQ youth. 

Jenni White is a native of Logansport, Indiana. In addition to her most recent role as Vice President of Mission Impact at Coburn Place, she has worked in various capacities with the Damien Center and Leadership Evansville. She is active with the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Indianapolis Continuum of Care, and she is an actor at the Phoenix Theatre and several community theaters in Indianapolis. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Indianapolis and a master’s degree from the University of Evansville. She and her wife live on the Near Eastside with their teenage son.

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