Updated: Jul 6, 2020
Organizations and events within marginalized communities are often perceived to have been long standing for their social influence to be sustained. However, most programs, events, and organizations are limited in their stay.
(S.T.A.R.) was no exception. Founded in 1970, following a sit-in at New York University, Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, saw that the needs of the street and trans youth were not being taken into account by early LGBTQ+ groups, so they created S.T.A.R. with the aim to fill that void. The goal was to help provide shelter and a safe space for trans sex workers and LGBTQ+ street youth. During that time there were no shelters for LGBTQ+ youth in North America.When S.T.A.R. opened their first S.T.A.R. House in a parked trailer truck in a Greenwich Village parking lot it became the first LGBTQ+ youth shelter in North America, the first trans woman of color led organization in the USA, and the first trans sex worker labor organization. However, eventually the trailer truck home was repossessed and for a period of time the organization was unable to provide adequate youth shelter.
On November 21, 1970 S.T.A.R. hosted a fundraising dance which helped the organization afford to rent out a 4 bedroom apartment in a building in the East Village in New York. The 4-bedroom apartment was run-down but it allowed them to shelter up to 20 people at a time. Johnson and Rivera maintained funding for the home through their sex work, providing food for the shelter for a year. They continued to struggle to sustain financial support to meet rent of the home. By 1972 S.T.A.R. saw a decline in supporters and closed down S.T.A.R. House and eventually disbanded the organization as a whole in 1973. S.T.A.R. was ultimately a short lived organization. Nonetheless, it is important not to overlook the impact it had and lessons learned that are able to be applied today. In its time functioning as a shelter S.T.A.R. took in over 50 homeless LBGTQ+ youth and provided them with food and housing for over two years. According to a study done by the University of Chicago in 2017 it was found that LGBTQ+ youth comprise up to 40 percent of the total unaccompanied homeless youth population, although they only make up five to 10 percent of the overall youth population, and 1 out 30 of youth age 13-17 were homeless for longer than a year.
While S.T.A.R. only lasted two years, It is important to recognize that every contribution won’t have sustained longevity but that doesn’t take away its impact. Every effort for change counts and it is vital that is kept in the forefront of our minds to encourage the changes we wish to seek.
Author, Kevin J.