By Mikkel Hyldebrandt
As you read this there are over 900 homeless young people on the streets in Atlanta – and nearly 80% of them are LGBTQ. Peach spoke to Rick Westbrook, who launched the Rainbow House Coalition just six months ago, about the progress of the organization in their work to combat the growing problem of homeless LGBTQ youth.
It has now been six months since the Rainbow House Coalition was launched – how has the public received it?
The response from the community has been incredible; we already have one house up and running. I was encouraged and proud of how quickly we were able to mobilize and get things done. Rainbow House Coalition is different from Lost-n-Found. RHC is geared towards providing safe, affordable housing solutions for homeless LGBTQ+ youth.
What milestones and accomplishments have been made since the launch of Rainbow House?
We have many accomplishments to be proud of, too many to list here but these are the highlights.
- We have a very active board and conduct face to face monthly meetings
- In record-breaking time we have achieved our 501c3 status
- Opened our first house, which included furnishings
- Website launched at rainbowhouseatl.org
These highlights and many more successes I attribute to the board and the community’s willingness to help.
Have you been able to set new goals and milestones based on your success so far?
Since homelessness is an ever-changing landscape, this is a difficult question to answer. What I can attest to is RHC’s dedication to continuing to develop and provide access to safe, affordable, clean housing solutions for LGBTQ+ homeless youth. Times are changing, and we need to develop new innovative strategies to support a much larger portion of the homeless at large. RHC focuses primarily on the LGBTQ+ community. “No one deserves to be forgotten,” Dear Evan Hansen.
You are resurrecting the popular Possum Show, but you have a new venue and concept for it. Tell us about it?
The East Point Possums had a great run for 20 years! Our last show had over 2000 people in attendance and raised a record amount of money for charity and increased awareness. We knew we were maxed out in the outdoor space in East Point and many people in Atlanta still did not know about the show. After a nearly two-year hiatus, we looked at how to create a fundraising tool building off the success’ the Possums created. “The Possum Show presents” will be a new way for us to bring entertainment as well as fundraising to a host of activities in the future, not just drag shows. But let’s not get it twisted, although fun and sometimes campy, I will use this opportunity to draw focus and educate our community for awareness.
Part of the Possums success is the organic, homegrown, southern hospitality events with a kick. When we looked at big entertainment for fundraising, such as national entertainers from RuPaul’s drag race the missing element is local community focus. While everyone loves a drag celebrity, we wanted to do something different and not like every other club or charity event. We decided to continue the tradition and celebrate how creative and original our local drag and performer scene is here in Atlanta. This year’s show will bring you the best camp performers with a production show in an immersive party.
“The Possum Show Presents: Summer Camp” is a fundraiser for Rainbow House Coalition and will be at Variety Playhouse (an indoor event!) on June 8th at 8 pm. It is a themed party with interactive audience participation during the show. Expect all things summer camp and campy! Guests are encouraged to come in costume and be creative with the theme.
For tickets and information go to variety-playhouse.com.
Anything you’d like to add?
Yes! Get your camp attire, splash the bug repellant, and get your tickets today. There are still a few VIP tables available. Come to The Possum Show Presents: Summer Camp, snap a pic with me and the others and share on social media to promote awareness.
Lastly, I would like to thank the entire board for their tireless efforts. Every member puts in countless hours and always willing to say yes. To the community at large, I am proud of Atlanta for facing difficult problems, or issues head on, and we could not do this without your continued love and support – thank you! One day I see a tiny homes village for young homeless LGBTQ+ people, surrounded by container home condo apartments for our aging LGBTQ+ seniors. Until we all have a safe place to lay our heads at night.