The Youth Emergency Center (YEC) will provide wrap-around support for LGBTQ+ young adults ages 16-24 in crisis. LGBTQ+ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than their non-LGBTQ+ peers, according to national studies. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, OUTMemphis, a 32-year-old organization that serves all ages of the LGBTQ+ community, has seen almost a double in numbers of youth seeking emergency shelter through the organization.
OUTMemphis will now provide a significant new intervention in the journey for LGBTQ+ young adults, where family conflict can lead to suicide, long term substance abuse, coerced sex work, permanent homelessness, and lifelong mental health barriers. Youth are particularly at risk for becoming chronically homelessness if they encounter housing instability during this age range. The YEC will be the home base for OUTMemphis’s unique youth housing program, the Metamorphosis Project, which began in 2017 and also provides transitional housing, case management, and other support.
The facility itself is a 2000 square foot drop-in center housing a living room, a classroom, a kitchen and dining area, laundry services, a full, accessible public bathroom, and a computer lab. The building then includes dorms for up to 30 nights of residence. In service of providing respect and safety, each dorm is single-occupancy and includes an independent entrances and full bathroom.
“As a community, experiencing the last year was a test and testament to what LGBTQ+ advocates do best: fight for our own and find seemingly impossible pathways to a thriving life. The care and innovation in this facility, from our peer advocates at the front desk to the unique design of the dorms, is driven by the lived experiences of our community. I’m deeply proud to see this service added to our city,” says Executive Director Molly Rose Quinn.
The building was made possible by a true community effort: Dell Livingston of LLW Architects, co-recipient of OUTMemphis’s 2019 “Founders Award”, designed the building along with Metamorphosis Project founder Stephanie Reyes, based on research from innovative housing and youth-centered spaces around the country. LGBTQ+ owned and operated TJ Builds donated over a year of consulting on the build and donated custom-built carpentry to the shelter’s interior. Local construction company ReConstruction Services completed the major portion of construction. Outdoor landscaping was supported by donations from Compost House, the Yard, and volunteers from the Kennedy View Garden Club.
Construction was funded by the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, the Plough Foundation, Mystic Krewe of Pegasus, and Manna House, in addition to donations from families and individuals since the plans were announced in 2017. Ikea, Raymond James Financial, and the PowerOn foundation donated interiors and technology. In 2021, OUTMemphis was selected for a technical assistance program by the Ali Forney Center, the nation’s first and largest LGBTQ+ youth shelter, which will consult on operations.
The Youth Emergency Center was conceived of in 2017 by staff and volunteers of OUTMemphis who saw the critical need for housing and other meaningful support for LGBTQ+ youth. Despite limited public services for LGBTQ+ individuals in the region, the YEC will be one of only a handful of similar facilities across the country, the vast majority of which are in major metropolitan areas outside of the South. The building sits at 2055 Southern Avenue, a half mile the organization’s flagship community center at 892 S. Cooper Street.
Interviews with Executive Director Molly Rose Quinn available by request. In the interest of our residents’ safety and respect, unscheduled visits by media will be turned away.