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Jessi's House offers housing for displaced members of the LGBTQ+ community

The nonprofit organization Jessi’s House is working to provide unconditional love and support to young adults.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — During pride month, The Human Rights Campaign declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans and issued a guidebook alongside the national warning to help ensure safety for both LGBTQ+ residents and travelers alike. 

Jessi’s House in Fort Smith is the only housing program for LGBTQ+ members in the River Valley.

"When we get new residents, there's an 18-month program that involves being sober and living independently. They're expected to get jobs and take public transportation while we help them get their driver's licenses and jobs. We teach life skills, like how to do taxes, and how to live on your own," said the case manager for Jessi's House, Samantha Holland.

The house has eight tenants from ages 18-24 and most of them came from families who have rejected them. 

"So, at Jessi’s, we are glad to provide a safe space. A lot of them came from situations that were not safe. We sit around and we talk, we see the news, we see the articles and we see the hate,” Holland explained.  

A local LGBTQ+ activist Patrick Boze says that "Jessi’s House is helping some of the most at-risk and vulnerable young people in our community who are targeted by laws. [Jessi's House] is filling a hole in our state."  

While working to create a stable life, residents volunteer at the Hope Campus to pay it forward. 

"And we usually work with the other homeless shelters in the community because we have such a nice facility here and we are so lucky to have this beautiful house. We want the residents to give back," Holland said.  

Jessi’s House has plans to walk in the annual pride parade in Fayetteville but with the state of emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans, they're nervous about attending.  

"Some of our residents... are scared... They're scared to go to pride, they ask 'What if something happens? What if there's someone there who's violent?' We see it all over the country," Holland recalled.

"Pride is supposed to be a chance for us to make our claim that we deserve equal rights, but there's an overcast of recent legislation that tells us that what we had hoped for is actually being taken away from us," Boze said.

The group says that regardless of their fears, they will boldly walk in the annual pride parade showing their love and support to the entire LGBTQ+ community. 

“I just wish that society would just look at kids the way that I do, and love them for who they are, and realize that it’s just another human experience. At the end of the day, we all bleed red and we’re all the same,” Holland said.  

The house itself is named after a co-founder who died a few years ago.

Jessi’s house has plans to collaborate with more organizations and businesses to expand resources for tenants. Eventually, they hope to rent out more properties to house more people. 

If you or someone you know needs transitional housing you can head to its the Jessi's House website.

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