Youth residences to be named for late local leader


Ground will be broken next month on a pioneering youth residence, which will be named for one of the community’s own pioneers.

Project HOME recently unveiled the name of its new LGBT-friendly youth facility: Gloria Casarez Residence. The building is named for the late LGBT leader, who served as the first director of the city’s Office of LGBT Affairs, from 2008-14, and also previously helmed such agencies as GALAEI. Casarez died in October 2014 from complications of cancer. 

A number of community tributes have sought to memorialize Casarez since her passing, including the renaming of the 200 block of South 12th Street as Gloria Casarez Way and a community-made memorial featuring her portrait on that same street.

Kate Gormley, young-adult program manager at Project Home, said Casarez’s legacy of advocacy work made her name a natural fit for the building.

“Anyone who knew or worked with Gloria knew how passionately she worked for LGBTQ youth, and earlier in her career she also spent a great deal of time working for the rights of homeless individuals,” Gormley said. “She was really one of the inspirations that the committee drew from for this project. It seemed perfect to name the building after her, as it brings together the two populations she worked tirelessly to advocate for.”

Gloria Casarez Residence will be a four-story building offering 30 LGBT-friendly apartments for those ages 18-23 who are homeless, at risk for homelessness and/or aging out of foster care. It is the first residence of its kind in the state and among only a handful of LGBT-focused youth residences in the nation.

The building will cover more than 36,000 square feet and will offer outdoor and indoor gathering spaces, a kitchen, laundry facilities, exercise space and other amenities. Residents will also be able to access resources like employment, education and health-care services. 

The project’s future was up in the air earlier this year, after North Philadelphia Health System, from which Project HOME was purchasing the land for the building, declared bankruptcy. At a bankruptcy hearing last summer, NPHS selected Ironstone Real Estates Partners’ $8-million bid; as part of that deal, Project HOME will pay $1.75 million to purchase two parcels — one for the Gloria Casarez Residences and another for a future LGBT-friendly residence for adults.

The groundbreaking for Gloria Casarez Residences is set for 10 a.m. Dec. 6. at 1315 N. Eighth St.

“Gloria embodied so much of the work we’re trying to do with this program,” Gormley noted. “We’re not only tipping our hat to her legacy but it’s also as an inspiration for those who will be moving into that building.”