Monthly LGBTQQIA+ Art Marketplaces started popping up this past June in Dexter Park, and more recently at indoor locations like WaterFire Arts Center, with the aim of creating a safe and accessible (vendor fees are on a sliding scale of zero to $50) space for queer and BIPOC artists to sell their work. But these inclusive markets are just scratching the surface of Haus of Codec’s mission.
In December, the five-person volunteer board opened Rhode Island’s first homeless shelter for transition-aged youth. Julio E. Berroa, GEM, Haley Johnson, Alexander Ruiz, and Charlotte Gagnon, who make up House of Codec, each put their wide-ranging talents and community partnerships together to make six emergency shelter beds available in Providence.
More than just supplying temporary shelter, Haus of Codec is committed to addressing the underlying factors facing youth residents experiencing homelessness. “While traditional shelter models are focused only on the immediate needs of their patrons,” says founder Berroa, “we are determined to break the cycle of homelessness for our residents. We are explicitly offering shelter to age-specific youth as this demographic sees a greater risk of violence and abuse in larger, less accommodating shelter spaces our state has historically provided.”
Haus of Codec defines transition-aged as 18-24, often encompassing youth who have gone through the juvenile justice system, aged out of foster or state care, were forced out of their homes after revealing their sexual identity to their family, or a number of other reasons.
“Our hope is that through our network of community care providers, Haus of Codec’s residents will be able to not only survive these difficult moments in their life but also thrive as contributing members of society,” says Berroa. In addition to meeting basic needs in a safe, affirming environment, residents will be connected to resources via AS220, House of Hope CDC, ONE Neighborhood Builders, Project Weber/RENEW, Sojourner House, Youth Pride Inc., and others.
The intersection between art and empowerment is palpable in Haus of Codec’s model for uplifting their residents and the community. Along with raising funds to open the shelter, the ongoing markets (and a flagship event happening downtown this June with PVDFest) offer a space for residents to sell their wares and foster a sense of creativity and independence in making art.
The volunteers behind Haus of Codec are optimistic about the good they can do in 2022 while fully aware of the challenges they’ll face to increase capacity, not least of all funding and eventually being able to pay staff for their time, energy, and expertise. But on the horizon, they look forward to their next property acquisition slated for late 2022, which will add 24 emergency beds and 16 supportive transitional apartments – no small step in their mission of uplifting vulnerable youth in our city.
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