Metro Weekly

Massachusetts organization purchases building to help LGBTQ asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution

Church-sponsored ministry seeks to link LGBTQ clients with financial and logistical support as they apply for asylum

Members of the LGBT Asylum Task Force march in the 2019 Boston Pride Parade – Photo: Facebook.

The LGBT Asylum Task Force, a group offering housing and support services to LGBTQ people fleeing violence and persecution in other countries, has purchased a multi-unit building in Worcester, Massachusetts, to help house its clients.

The purchase of the building will allow the task force, a ministry of Hadwen Park Congregational Church, will serve as a central location where asylum seekers can seek out and be connected with resources to assist them in their transition and in navigating the asylum application process.

“The program is a lifeline and a sign of hope for people around the world,” ministry director Al Green told The Republican. “This program saves lives, provides day-to-day necessities, and gives hope to so many who have lost all hope.”

About 70 countries have laws criminalizing homosexual behavior, where LGBTQ people face prison or death for same-sex relations or even speaking out in favor of equality measures. They can also face severe violence in several more countries, where homosexuality is not criminalized but where conservative social mores are dominant.

Asylum seekers are not permitted to work in the United States until they are granted a work permit and a social security number. The process can take more than a year and during that time, asylum seekers are not eligible for most forms of support.

Since its creation in 2008, the task force has helped more than 200 people from more than 20 countries who are fleeing persecution or violence. At any time, it represents 24 to 28 asylum seekers, who incur living expenses of approximately $32,000 per month.

Prior to purchasing the new property, the task force had leased several apartments in the city to house the asylum seekers. By acquiring its own building, the task force hopes to reduce costs and save money that would otherwise go to line the pockets of private landlords.

Funds to purchase the property were raised through private donations, grants, and fundraising events, like the LGBT Asylum Task Force’s annual gala, which is this year scheduled for Sept. 26.

The Task Force seeks to provide asylum seekers with not only housing, but food and a small monthly stipend, while also linking them with pro bono attorneys, health care providers and mental health support services.

It also provides workshops to help its clients acquire bank accounts and teach them about their rights as asylum seekers, immigrants and tenants.

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

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