Metro Weekly

Campaign Launched to Support Casa Ruby Employees

Capital Pride Alliance and The DC Center are raising funds to cover rent, groceries, and transportation for the nonprofit's employees.

Casa Ruby’s previous 24-hour drop-in center on Georgia Avenue NW – Photo: Facebook.

The Capital Pride Alliance and The DC Center for the LGBT Community have partnered to raise funds to support former and current employees of Casa Ruby, the nonprofit service provider that was forced to shutter due to unpaid debts and allegations of financial mismanagement.

The nonprofit, which ran a daily drop-in center, a food pantry, a free clothing closet, various support groups, and transitional and temporary housing shelters, had held itself out as a service provider assisting homeless LGBTQ youth, LGBTQ asylum seekers, victims of violence, transgender individuals and Latino and immigrant communities. 

But last month, Attorney General Karl Racine’s office filed a complaint alleging that Casa Ruby had violated D.C. laws governing how nonprofit entities are managed and operate, and asked the court to issue an order freezing Casa Ruby’s bank accounts. 

The Attorney General claims that the organization racked up debts to landlords and vendors who were never paid, failed to pay its employees, and failed to exercise oversight over the nonprofit’s finances. Specifically, the complaint alleges that the former executive director, Ruby Corado, was the sole person able to access the organization’s financial accounts, and used some of the money intended for operations for personal expenses. 

Since 2016, it is estimated that Casa Ruby received about $9.6 million in D.C. government grants, which were intended to fund specific housing or support programs for Casa Ruby’s clients.

The alleged financial mismanagement, as well as the loss of at least one key grant for low-barrier housing, led Casa Ruby to shut down its housing programs, including low-barrier shelters for LGBTQ homeless youth. Some Casa Ruby employees working in other departments have continued trying to help clients despite not being paid since the early summer. Clients who had been seeking out services from Casa Ruby were abruptly placed with other programs, but continue to struggle with issues like homelessness and food insecurity.

“It is imperative that the integral and glorious humans of Casa Ruby feel a sense of reciprocity from our community; meaning the immense care and support that they have provided to our community members in need — selflessly and without compensation — should be reciprocated ten-fold during this extremely dire chapter of their lives,” Kimberley Bush, the executive director of The DC Center, said in a statement.

In response to the crisis at Casa Ruby, the Capital Pride Alliance and The DC Center have teamed up to raise funds, through the Pride 365 Fund, to pay the day-to-day expenses of the former and current employees of Casa Ruby, such as rent, groceries, and transportation costs. The employees will also be connected to resources such as case management, counseling, and workforce development programs to help them find steady employment that allows them to regular pay their bills and cover their living expenses. 

“Our organizations want to uplift the lives of these hardworking and committed members of our community,” Ryan Bos, the executive director of Capital Pride Alliance, said in a statement. “We are grateful to be in the position to raise these funds and help connect the past employees to existing programs and opportunities that can foster ongoing support.”

CPA and The DC Center are working in conjunction with the Wanda Alston Foundation, a nonprofit that was recently selected by a D.C. Superior Court judge to serve as the receiver for Casa Ruby, to dole out funds fairly and equitably through a transparent process. 

“I am thrilled that CPA and The DC Center are using their platforms and resources to help the incredible former staff of Casa Ruby,” June Crenshaw, the executive director of the Wanda Alston Foundation, said in a statement. “We are all in this together and helping our vulnerable community members is a cause worth supporting.”

Bush, of The DC Center, thanked Wegmans for donating gift cards to employees who now find themselves without regular-paying jobs and a source of income. Other partners, including AIDS Healthcare Foundation, DC’s Different Drummers, and Impulse Group DC have also made commitments to providing assistance to the former employees of Casa Ruby. 

“The support from our community will help to rebuild the lives of our LGBTQIA2S+ colleagues,” Bush said.

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