Moved by the plight of cast-out young people, two generous philanthropists fund new home, partner with The Our Fund Foundation in an inspiring and collaborative effort between The Sunshine Cathedral, SunServe and FLITE Center
Michael Kalb, Christine Frederick, David Jobin, Dr. Robert Griffin, Tony Lima and Terry Merlin
Wilton Manors, Fla. – (November 2, 2023) – A safe haven for unhoused LGBTQ+ young adults soon will become reality when The Sunshine Pride House opens its doors this year to provide shelter, counseling, education and life skills to young adults who have been cast out by their families after revealing their sexual orientation. In an inspiring display of collaborative support and solidarity, the Sunshine Cathedral, SunServe and the FLITE Center, three highly respected non-profit organizations dedicated to meeting the needs of LGBTQ+ people, joined the two donors and The Our Fund Foundation in their efforts to make The Sunshine Pride House a reality.
According to a Covenant House survey, LGBTQ+ youth make up only 7% of the total U.S. youth population, yet they comprise an astounding 40% of all young people who are unhoused in the United States. LGBTQ+ youth also face greater risks of “high levels of hardship,” including higher rates of assault, trauma, trafficking, and early death. Black youth who identify as LGBTQ+, particularly young Black men, experience the highest rates of housing instability.
Thanks to inspirational leadership and collaborative efforts by philanthropic individuals and organizations, The Sunshine Pride House, a six-bedroom, four-bathroom, 2,854 square-foot duplex in Fort Lauderdale, will house up to 12 LGBTQ+ young adults, a step in the right direction for addressing a critical issue.
Donor Leads the Way
The journey to remedy the perilous housing deficit began in 2020 when two donors on separate paths, yet sharing the same vision, were thankfully introduced to The Our Fund Foundation, South Florida’s only LGBTQ+ community foundation.
Michael Kalb, who championed the project from its conception, contacted The Our Fund Foundation, to discuss what could be done to address the need for solutions and whether other donors and non-profit organizations might be interested in adding their support to Kalb’s mission.
“I was profoundly moved and greatly saddened after witnessing numerous young people getting kicked out of their homes,” said Kalb. “Inspired by the compassionate nature of my two daughters, I committed myself to taking action and am incredibly heartened with how we’ve
been able to work together to provide safe housing, as well as the critical wrap-around services.”
Fort Lauderdale resident Terry Merlin, was simultaneously struck by the stories and statistics surrounding the plight of unhoused LGBTQ+ young adults, felt compelled to take action. Sharing the same goals, objectives and expectations, he was fortuitously introduced to Kalb and The Our Fund Foundation by the FLITE Center. Merlin matched Kalb’s generous donation, securing the funds to fully purchase an existing property and retrofit it into The Sunshine Pride House.
“I knew the numbers already were staggering and when the pandemic hit the situation became even worse,” said Merlin. “I made inquiries about opening a shelter for LGBTQ+ youth and am so grateful to have been introduced to Michael and these incredible non-profit partners.”
In addition to stable housing, the innovative project offers comprehensive support, mentorship and a nurturing environment that empowers LGBTQ+ young adults to thrive. With wrap-around services including daily monitoring, life skills coaching, mental health counseling, and educational training and job placement, the Sunshine Pride House will provide residents with the support and opportunities they need.
Supporting Agencies Sign On
“It’s been our privilege to make meaningful introductions and serve as the facilitator for this multifaceted project,” said David Jobin president & CEO of The Our Fund Foundation.
The Sunshine Cathedral, a trusted organization with more than 50 years of experience owning and managing properties, is the agency that formally acquired and owns the Sunshine Pride House.
“Our congregation immediately expressed interest in supporting LGBTQ unhoused youth, a crisis that has grown over time,” said Dr. Robert Griffin, executive minister of the Sunshine Cathedral. “When we learned that The Our Fund Foundation was working on this issue, we quickly signed on as the lead agency to make this vision a reality.”
Collaboration between SunServe and FLITE Center was the driving force behind the project’s early success in its beta format. FLITE Center is the statewide expert at offering comprehensive access to services for unhoused young people with a focus on transitioning them to become successful adults. With its wealth of experience in housing oversight and supporting transition-age young people, FLITE Center seamlessly integrates housing services into the broader support framework.
“The program serves as a model for current straight and mixed housing facilities, with a strong emphasis on compassion and cultural competency. The safety and wellbeing of the LGBTQ+ young people we serve is our number one priority, and we help to ensure their welfare is secured through the Sunshine Pride House initiative.” said Christine Frederick, CEO of FLITE Center
SunServe brings unmatched expertise in Broward County related to serving LGBTQ+ youth. Its dedicated team empowers young people by fostering connections with peers, teaching life skills, facilitating access to social support services and exploring educational and employment opportunities.
“LGBTQ+ unhousedness has been a major issue for years and there hasn’t been an effective program anywhere yet. We are changing that now,” said Tony Lima, CEO of SunServe.
Thanks to the generous financial support from Kalb and Merlin, the Sunshine Pride House’s physical property is paid for. However, there are ongoing operating costs to support the programs and services required to reintegrate young people into the greater community. The Our Fund Foundation is taking the lead on raising the annual operating funds, estimated to be $300,000.
“The generous support from Michael and Terry serves as a beacon of hope and is a powerful testament to the transformative influence individual donors can have on marginalized communities,” said Jobin.
Established in 2011, The Our Fund Foundation has grown into the third largest LGBTQ+ foundation in the nation. As South Florida’s only LGBTQ+ community foundation, The Our Fund Foundation promotes philanthropy, manages enduring investments and conducts meaningful grant-making to improve the lives of LGBTQ people in South Florida.
For more information or to make a donation of any size, please contact The Our Fund Foundation at theourfund.org or call 954-565-1090.