A shelter for members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community is being established in Cape Town. This will be Africa’s first formal shelter providing short-term accommodation to sexual minority groups during crisis periods.

The Pride Shelter Trust, a non-profit organisation registered as a section 21 company, was initiated under the auspices of Cape Town Pride Festival. Glenn de Swardt, a director of Cape Town Pride, was tasked to identify an organisation that would be Pride’s official beneficiary.

“Cape Town is already the best serviced city in Africa in terms of support services for the gay and lesbian community, thanks largely to Triangle Project. However, our city lacks one essential service for our gay and lesbian community – a shelter that would provide safe short-term accommodation to people who are experiencing a crisis”, says de Swardt. “Cape Town Pride supported the idea of establishing a shelter and the concept of the Pride Shelter Trust grew from there”.

The Trust received a R50 000 donation from Pride 2005 to kick-start the fund. De Swardt explains that there is a general shortage of available beds in Cape Town’s existing shelters.

In addition, many existing shelters are affiliated to faith-based organisations who are frequently not gay-friendly. “Gay and lesbian people placed in existing shelters are frequently exposed to secondary trauma, both by shelter staff and other residents. The Pride Shelter Trust will provide short-term safe accommodation to people who have been thrown out of their homes or been assaulted because of their sexual orientation, or who don’t have anywhere else to turn to.”

Prominent members of Cape Town’s gay and lesbian community volunteered to join a board of directors. These include Zackie Achmat, Dr. Ashraf Grimwood, Mary Hames, Dr. Gordon Isaacs, Dr. Estelle Lawrence, Prof. Lorna Martin, Andrew Massyn, Ronnie Ngalo, Sheryl Ozinsky, The Very Rev. Rowan Smith, Toni Sylvester and Dr. Ivan Toms. Ian McMahon and Glenn de Swardt were elected treasurer and chairperson of the board, respectively.

The Pride Shelter Trust will attempt to raise a million rand within three years. In addition to support from the gay and lesbian community, the organisation will approach corporate sponsors and diverse donor groups.

The Pride Shelter Trust will be publicly launched on Wednesday 8 February at 18h00. The venue of the launch is Cape Info Africa, Napier Street, in Cape Town’s De Waterkant.

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