In June of 2011 I got word that the place that This Is HOW was leasing to use as the residence for the people we house was going to be foreclosed on.
As a result, I shifted the rest of that year, and particularly that summer, to the task of buying a house for the organization. As a non-profit organization, and a cry, very poor one, the idea of doing so was, to most people, outlandish.
Stupid. Pie in the sky dreaming.
I hit the streets, visiting people and organizations in person, determined to make this happen come hell or high water. I buried the forums and social media sites and blogs and I just begged the living hell out of everyone I knew.
I have an extensive email list. As a rule, I do not use it. It strikes me as rude, unless the topic is of incredible importance.
That was important enough.
By October we had raised over 30k dollars. We had matching funds lined up. We had our first real grant.
It just so happens that I spend a lot of time looking at houses. The listings on multiple sites are referenced several times a day, and even something as silly as a trip to the grocery store includes driving through neighborhoods and often stopping to look into a house. I have zillow and the Realtor apps on both my android phone and my iPad.
The reason that I am always looking at houses is that the person I live with flips them. Not in the sense that one sees on reality shows. One house at a time, get a deal, make a few bucks fixing it up, and so forth.
It is not a stretch to say that he is addicted to doing so. It is a stretch to say that how makes a lot doing so. Since I moved in, we have flipped zero houses.
The first one we were going to flip instead was rented out to a friend, who in turn houses others as roommates she is trying to give a leg up to. There hasn’t been a second one.
There isn’t the money to do a second one.
You might imagine that seeing as how this was an addiction, that my suddenly having money to get a house in late 2010 was a big deal. For them as well as myself.
The market was at a low point. Not bottom, but low.
I started trying to get financing. Turns out that even though corporations are people, they cannot get a mortgage. They have to get a loan, a regular one.
Which requires a great credit score. And since corporations are people, they have to work at their credit building the same way, which my predecessor did not do.
And mine is in zero ville, since I have a combination of credit reports old and new, that are very, very different in profile. And so my reports are locked until I get around to formally doing stuff.
This was depressing.
And I began to get angry and upset and easily crashed. Until a friend who was also an agent made a suggestion that I glossed over, but others didn’t.
They followed up on it. They found a place that needed work, blah blah. I am not afraid of work. I can see past even the worst conditions to the bones of the house, past the place to live, into the home that could be.
I am the daughter of a Broker, after all. I know real estate fairly well.
I was dragged to see this place.
And I fell in love. Trees, birds, green, a farmhouse that was small, but small was what I could afford.
It was an open house. There were other people. They also fell in love. All 15 of them.
The house was being offered on OWC. Which means the owner will carry the note, acting like a bank, basically.
And when you are a poor charity that is going to house people that are called freaks and perverts and worse, you sorta give such a thing the side eye.
The owner was a Christian man, a former Olympian, no less. Very R, capital sort. I have a soft spot for Olympians, as I do support the ideals behind them.
I made an offer. It was higher than it should have been, all things considered, and it meant taking that carry, so there was a note.
But title and deed are mine.
They have a good Christian carrying the note and making a tidy profit.
The note allows for very flexible payments. One has to be made each month. It is a ten year note, as well. Make a basic payment for a decade, and the property is clear. Pay more, it clears faster, no balloons, just simple math and a high interest rate.
But if I had stayed in the box that most trans folk stay in, then there would have been homeless trans people.
I do hang out in that box. I make purchasing decisions at both a corporate level and personal one so as to not give money to bad guys.
But it does not confine me. I step out of it often, because the goal is to change the minds that can be changed, to save the lives that can be saved, and I have 15,000 people to think about, every day, plus even more when you realize that our mission is not confined to AZ.
We will be a national org, no doubt. But to get there, we have chosen to start small and work hard and build an infrastructure.
We signed the paperwork in October. Local trans folk came out and helped us clean the place up. I whined that we didn’t get to keep the old cars that were there: one would have paid half the note off, and another would have done another quarter, as they were popular collector cars in good shape.
In November of 2011 we held an event, cut the ribbon, gave out awards, and then kept on going.
In 2012, 70 trans people used the space to sleep, recover, crash, and rebuild their lives. Another 150 found solace and welcome and safe space. We had to cut back our programs, as donations dropped a bit, but we installed a new cooler, we did a partial remodel of the restroom, we added a new refrigerator and freezer, we painted and put up ceiling fans, built bunk beds, and put up a storage shed.
This year, after a year of being quiet while an election raged across the country, we are going to raise the money to keep the house in great shape. In the first six months, we gained the trust and support of the local neighborhood.
We brought in irrigation, we gave a bit of effort towards a community garden, we planned and set things up. The value of the property has doubled and kept on going. It is, right now, worth more than the org brings in over two years.
But we aren’t going to sell it until we can get enough to start two houses. It is one of the major legs, a foundation on which to build more.
This year the goal is to build the rest of the foundation as well. To stand up your need two legs (pardon the ableist metaphor, please), and we only have one.
The next one is The Arizona Trans Center. It will act as the other part of our work, a place for events, fundraising, meetings, information, support, respite, business incubation, and more. It is the next logical step in our goals for the next 8 years.
After that, comes a business that we own, that gives work to trans people and provides services to the wider community, and a second house. Both of which will be possible because of the Trans Center, which gives us a broader access to funds and the ability to reach beyond the usual avenues for funding.
Lastly is the medical complex. Which will itself be made possible by the previous work. And a third house, and then after that we just keep growing, building a company that is by Trans people, for Trans people, about Trans people, and belongs to them.
The groundwork has been laid all along. The contacts, the research, the building of resources. Slow and steady, and as we grow we keep to the core mission, we stay to the ideals, we build on the dreams and needs of trans people.
Four main legs: housing, community, employment, medical. Each a major element in and of themselves. Each feeding into the other, and as community grows, it reaches beyond the trans community for the community, bringing them to us, on our terms, in our space. Then comes employment, so they see us at work, so they spend their money, so they can see the world through our eyes. Then medicine, where our Trans folk set the rules and needs and they can turn to us, instead of us turning to them.
All of that sounds like a pipe dream, to many. Wishful thinking. Idealism run rampant.
Just like the idea of buying a house to help homeless, recovering trans people was.
Yet there it is.
All of those things will come to pass in the next eight years. This year the Trans Center.
As they come to pass, some of you may want to do the same things in your city. Or want a TIH there.
We want that, too. That is why we have a chapter system. A way to not have to reinvent the wheel. It means you can be part of this, where you are, right now.
We are even accepting board member interest again. It isn’t easy, it isn’t cheap. It is a hundred dollars a month in give get, and many hours spent working in ways that can be challenging. It also means a yearly retreat, usually at your cost, right now.
I am hoping for either Lake Powell or Vegas this year.
This Is HOW.
We do it.
With your help.