Founded by an Episcopal parish, the first shelter for LGBTQ+ youth in Indiana offers refuge to the rejected

By Egan Millard
Posted Feb 10, 2023

Trinity Haven’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. Photo: Diocese of Indianapolis

[Episcopal News Service] When the Trinity Haven house in Indianapolis opened its doors in April 2021, it was the first shelter specifically for LGBTQ+ young people in Indiana. Now, almost two years later, it has housed 30 young people who hadn’t had stable homes.

Trinity Haven, founded by Trinity Episcopal Church and affiliated with the Diocese of Indianapolis, was created to provide a supportive and accepting environment for LGBTQ+ people ages 16–21 who left or were kicked out of their family homes because of their identity. LGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented among youth who experience housing insecurity; in The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 28% of LGBTQ+ youth reported experiencing homelessness or housing instability at some point in their lives.

The house can hold up to nine residents, who live together in community with the support of staff who help them develop the resources and skills to move on to a stable home and pursue employment or education. Residents can live there for up to two years, and so far, residents have stayed from a week to over a year, said Executive Director Jenni White.

Trinity Haven also runs the Host Homes Program, designed for shorter-term stays of about six months. Youth needing a place to stay are placed in the homes of families who have signed up to host them; they also receive support services to help them move on. Since Trinity Haven launched, 21 young people have stayed at the house and nine have been placed with Host Homes families, White said.

The idea originated in 2017, when Trinity Episcopal Church parish leaders were trying to decide what to do with an unused house on the church property and met with local nonprofits to explore some options.

“That’s when the folks at the church learned more about the housing crisis that is impacting LGBTQ youth and young adults – that when they come out or are found out, they are kicked out by their families, most often because of their religious or political beliefs,” White told Episcopal News Service.

After studying the idea further, Trinity expanded the concept and decided to buy a different house that was more suited to the needs of such a program. They also provided financial support for Trinity Haven to grow as its own nonprofit, along with grants from the United Thank Offering and other sources.

“What’s really beautiful about Trinity Episcopal Church is that they have a really rich history of helping incubate nonprofit organizations, giving them the time and energy that they need to get started and then really setting them free to do good work in the community,” White said.

A grant offset half of the purchase costs, and once the nonprofit was up and running, Trinity Haven took over the mortgage, but the parish and parishioners continue to provide significant financial support.

“The backing of that congregation and the parishioners – we wouldn’t be here without them,” White said. “[They’ve helped] in all of the ways, from the idea to the conceptualization to the purchase of this home, and we still partner with them to this day.”

Trinity Episcopal Church decided to use the house on its property to host the four young adults in its branch of the Episcopal Service Corps, one of whom serves as the volunteer coordinator for Trinity Haven.

Residents come to Trinity Haven for a variety of different reasons, White said. Some are fleeing mistreatment at home and hoping to start a new independent life, while some are open to the possibility of reconnecting with their families. When that looks like a safe and healthy option, Trinity Haven facilitates that process.

“We had one person stay for a week. They moved in and within that same week, their family kind of had a wake-up call on how much they were impacting the young person’s life by not accepting them for who they were,” White told ENS. “And the family came to terms with that and promised to do better, and that young person chose to move back and try to give their family a second chance. So that was a beautiful thing.”

Others are determined to build new lives for themselves, White said, like the young transgender man who contacted Trinity Haven a few months before his 18th birthday “and shared with us how he was being manipulated and abused by his mother because she found out he was trans.”

The young man’s mother wouldn’t let him leave until he turned 18, so he developed a plan with Trinity Haven staff and his high school counselors to move into Trinity Haven on his 18th birthday. He is now finishing his senior year of high school and has already been accepted to three colleges with full scholarships, and plans to become a doctor, White said.

“That has been an incredible journey, to watch him just blossom into who he was meant to be,” she said.

Another resident moved into her own apartment and is pursuing a career as a certified nursing assistant, and she often reaches out to White with unprompted messages of thanks.

“She reaches out and just writes, ‘I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Trinity Haven … I never, ever thought that this would be possible,’” White told ENS.

Trinity Episcopal Church’s dedication to creating a shelter for LGBTQ+ young people is significant because so much of the hostility toward them comes from religious sources, White added.

“I’m so grateful for their commitment to really believing – and acting on that belief – that every human being deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” she said, “especially because they’re LGBTQ, not in spite of it.”

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at