Metro Weekly

Homeless LGBTQ youth advocate Friendship Place partners with Amazon

Matching funds will be used to help families, including "families of choice," find stable housing

Jean Michel Giraud – Photo: Friendship Place.

Last week, Friendship Place, a local homeless advocacy organization, announced a partnership with Amazon to help provide critical emergency services to families experiencing homelessness in the D.C. area.

Under the arrangement, Amazon will match all donations made to Friendship Place before Dec. 31, 2017, up to a total of $1 million. The money raised will go towards programs aimed at helping families find stable long-term housing and jobs so that they can avoid becoming homeless once again.

Donations will also be used to help clients access free medical and mental health care, assist them with food and transportation costs, moving costs, and purchasing furniture.

Jean Michel Giraud, the president and CEO of Friendship Place, notes that Amazon’s pledge to match donation up to $1 million constitutes the largest private donation the organization has ever received. Giraud says that the money will be used to benefit both families who have biological ties and “families of choice,” which include members of the LGBTQ community and, in particular, homeless LGBTQ youth.

The match campaign is part of Amazon’s efforts to support nonprofits that provide emergency services to families in need. Recently, the Seattle-based company announced it was building a permanent home in its newest office building for Mary’s Place, an organization providing emergency shelter and other services for women and families experiencing homelessness.

“Friendship Place’s impact in D.C. during the past 26 years is evident in the statistics, but it’s even more obvious when you hear the stories of the lives they help change,” Jay Carney, Amazon’s senior vice president of global corporate affairs, said in a statement.

“Amazonians across the D.C. region are grateful for the opportunity to help a team as successful, compassionate and worthy as Friendship Place, and we’re excited to expand our support for organizations that provide emergency services for families and children in need.”

Friendship Place says it helped to prevent or end homelessness for 1,372 people in 2017, including 350 veterans and more than 400 children, and helped place 249 others into full-time jobs. In recent years, the organization has particularly extended a hand to D.C.’s LGBTQ community, particularly homeless LGBTQ youth. According to the 2015 Youth Homeless Survey, 43 percent of the District’s homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.

In April, Friendship Place held a symposium, “Young, LGBTQ and Homeless” focusing on the extent and contributing factors to LGBTQ youth homelessness. The group also operates a “Before 30” case management program aimed at finding vulnerable 17- to 29-year-olds permanent or long-term housing and matching them with job placement opportunities, counseling, and other services they may need.

“Families in D.C. come in all shapes and sizes,” Sean Read, the director of Friendship Place’s Welcome Center, who oversees the organization’s LGBTQ youth outreach efforts, said, “and Friendship Place is committed to meeting people where they are, how they identify, and helping them achieve stability.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com