SUMMIT, NJ - The Unitarian Church in Summit has raised more than $6,900 to support the first and only northern New Jersey homeless shelter focusing on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth and young adults.
The funds, all raised in the month of January, will be given to the LGBT RAIN Foundation of Essex County. RAIN (Reaching Adolescents in Need) opened its East Orange shelter in November 2014. It is one of only a handful of shelters in the nation aimed at meeting the needs of homeless LGBT young people.
Brian Halpin, social action chair for the Unitarian congregation, noted that LGBT youth and young adults make up a disproportionate amount -- 20 to 40% -- of youth and young adult homeless people. “Their needs are often not addressed in traditional shelters and, in fact, they often face bullying, discrimination and worse at traditional shelters. RAIN’s programs promote self-sufficiency and independence to enhance their residents’ ability to function within their communities.”
RAIN’s founder Elaine Helms and Board president Tamara Fleming were honored at a luncheon on January 17 at the Summit congregation. In a talk during worship services, congregation member Marty Rothfelder called the two his heroes. “They do this work without compensation to address this very real and unmet need.”
Rev. Emilie Boggis, minister of congregational life, said the action is “part of a history of efforts for this congregation and Unitarian Universalists to support, include and embrace LGBT people.”