Not too far from my home in Indianapolis, right off my regular running route, is a cream-colored brick house with modest landscaping and a few pink flamingos in the front yard. It is unassuming—that is part of the point—but it stands as a monument to what a community can do with determination and compassion.
The house is called Trinity Haven, and it is Indiana’s first shelter for homeless LGBTQ+ teenagers. Even before the ribbon was cut on April 30, young people were living there, because as soon as word got out that such a place would exist, desperate teens got in touch to say that they were about to be homeless and needed help. At Trinity Haven, young people can find up to 24 months of housing, stabilization assistance, support services, independent living skills, case management, care coordination and a host homes program that provides an average of six months of housing with a host family and intensive case management.
The journey to opening Trinity Haven, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, which I serve as bishop, lasted five years. Along the way, the leaders of Trinity Episcopal Church in Indianapolis who championed this project learned that LGBTQ+ youth homelessness is an invisible crisis in our city. As Leigh Ann Hirschman, the founding president of Trinity Haven’s board said in a recent interview, every night, LGBTQ+ kids with nowhere to live sleep on park benches, in doorways, and on buses trying to stay warm and safe.
As a Christian leader, I find it humbling and sobering to know that many homeless LGBTQ+ kids find themselves without family support or shelter because of the toxic homophobia promulgated by too many of my fellow Christians. When my training for this fall’s virtual Boston Marathon takes me by Trinity Haven, I am reminded that I am building the strength I need for the journey toward true justice. Training for a marathon is hard—but its hardships pale in comparison to the challenges facing LGBTQ+ youth. And while I know I will be longing for that finish line after 26.2, it will not be as sweet as the experience of seeing hearts soften and minds change in favor of standing with the vulnerable and marginalized to transform systems of injustice.
And while I know I will be longing for that finish line after 26.2, it will not be as sweet as the experience of seeing hearts soften and minds change in favor of standing with the vulnerable and marginalized to transform systems of injustice.
The road will be a long one, as the recent surge of homophobic, and especially transphobic, state legislation makes clear. I give thanks for all of the faithful people who made Trinity Haven real, but I’m running toward the day when it can close its doors because LGBTQ+ children are entirely beloved and safe at home.
Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows is the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, an accomplished runner and triathlete, and part of the Oiselle Volée community. Jennifer, who grew up in New York City, is the first Black woman elected to lead a diocese in the Episcopal Church.