Homeless LGBTQ people being disadvantaged when finding resources to help them stay safe is not a new story in Austin. Queertopiaa local LGBTQ-led homelessness group, is doing all it can to help those lost in the current dysfunctional system, but as president of the organization Danielle Reichmann said, there is so much more that can be done.
The Queertopia Rainbow Bus (Courtesy of Danielle Reichman)
Reichman leads both Queertopia and its sister band Small alliance of petals, a non-profit organization that distributes trans mental wellness resources such as gender-affirming clothing and accessories, employment assistance, and legal/gender name change navigation. While the two organizations started intertwined, Reichman says they eventually split services between the two to make them more efficient. Those who volunteer under the Queertopia name do outreach with local camps and fundraise to house primarily queer and trans people from BIPOC whose camps have been cleared. Following the 2021 passage of Proposition B, which recriminalized camping after the Austin City Council decriminalized it in June 2019, Queertopia participated in a two-month camping demonstration in front of the hotel. of town. “It was very violently shut down by the police and the city council,” Reichman recalls, “and from there we started housing people in our home and have housed over 100 people since then without any government funding. , just like fundraising on Instagram.
However, recent events have given Queertopia more hope for their future. Local gay non-profit organization Embrace the ATX offered the group fiscal sponsorship, an unexpected but much-appreciated move that Reichman says will help Queertopia pursue its greatest endeavors. One is a transitional shelter in Austin run by a queer and trans group from BIPOC. Having an LGBTQ-specific shelter will help prioritize these people in a way that the current system lacks. But the higher goal for Queertopia, which Reichman says financial assistance from Embrace has given them the confidence to announce, is a small community of queer background. She describes that future as being an intentionally anti-racist and anti-capitalist community that can survive without charging rent from its residents as well as be able to grow and sell hemp.
The Queertopia Crew (Courtesy of Danielle Reichman)
Currently, Reichman says Queertopia is facing pressure from their HOA after welcoming people from closed camps into their home as well as their iconic rainbow bus parked on the street. With around $2,000 in fines and the growing emotional toll of having a full house, the work of raising awareness for queer homeless people has been exhausting. The biggest frustration from Reichman’s perspective has been the city government’s lack of help for BIPOC’s homeless gay and trans people. “Austin is ranked among the best cities in the country for gay people,” she says. “But if you’re queer and you’re homeless, there are no resources for you other than grassroots organizations.”
Those who want to help Queertopia with their work have two options, says Reichman: “If you don’t have money, use your time [or] if you don’t have time, use your money. Although Embrace’s assistance has improved the organization’s prospects, much of the cost of housing those in need has come out of the pockets of Queertopia volunteers. Donations, whether one-time or made as a monthly contribution through their Open Collective page, will go towards keeping the lights on as well as the future small house community. While outreach opportunities such as presenting at this weekend’s Texas Roller Derby game are helpful, Reichman also says they would appreciate people raising money for them through local events. Volunteers are also always needed, but Reichman adds that even if someone doesn’t want to work with an organization, there’s still plenty to do for our homeless neighbors.
“A support system, or rather the lack of a support system, is the number one reason people become homeless,” she says. “So make a fucking friend who lives down the street and be their support system. It’s the best thing you can do for someone…there’s just no reason not to.
Queertopia will be competing in the Be Your Own Hero Texas Roller Derby event on Saturday, August 27 at 6 p.m. at the Thunderdome in Buda. For those wishing to donate to Queertopia, check out https://opencollective.com/queertopia, and stay up to date with the organization by following their social media @queertopiaatx on Instagram and Facebook.