Proud Haven, Past and Present

Proud Haven is a non-profit that focuses on the needs of LGBTQIA+ youth experiencing homelessness. They got started unofficially in 2012, in response to a crisis on both the local and national levels.  Recently, Proud Haven had a fundraiser called Tunes and Tapas at James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy. The event engaged several local artists, featured queer and queer-friendly catering, and offered lots of cool auction prizes to help raise funds for some exciting new developments coming up this year. Over $9,000 was raised, which will help support the future programs and staff of Proud Haven.  QueerPGH was in attendance, and sat down with Proud Haven’s newly elected Chair, Julia Strickland-Gillard, to talk about the history and goals of Proud Haven.

The Proud Haven logo, a picture of a rainbow-striped house with a heart on it

QueerPGH: Can you tell us a little about the history of Proud Haven, how it got started and a little about the founders?

Strickland-Gillard: Proud Haven was officially founded in 2013 by the parent and child team of Debbie and Angie Scotto. Angie came up with the idea during a graduate class at Robert Morris and was encouraged by their professor to pursue the idea. Debbie was aware of the statistics that 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+, and this is a population that is uniquely at risk and routinely under-served. They worked with their child to develop the plan and try to get it off the ground. They first put together a Board in October-December of 2015. The first official Board meeting was held in late 2015 and officers were established shortly thereafter. Since that time, Proud Haven has opened an office, hired a part-time staff member, and directly served over 100 young people in and around the Pittsburgh area through various services, including providing temporary lodging, referring to longer-term safe spaces, providing services, counseling, clothing, and toiletries, among many other things.

QueerPGH: How can folks get more involved with Proud Haven and its mission?

Strickland-Gillard: We have our General Quarterly Assembly meetings (dates can be found on our website and Facebook) where the public can meet the board, learn more about the organization, get updates on current/upcoming programming, and hopefully, get inspired to volunteer with us! To get involved, you can fill out our volunteer form on our website.

QueerPGH: What are some of the goals that Proud Haven has in the upcoming year?

Strickland-Gillard: In the next few months, Proud Haven is set to hire our first full-time employee and open our first three-bed group housing space. We will also be looking to fill an additional part-time position.  We will be acquiring a three-bed home that will be used as priority housing for LGBTQIA+ youth.  We will also continue to improve and expand our programming at our office space in Lawrenceville that will include resourcing and social activities for homeless queer youth.

The money raised at Tunes and Tapas will be used to be able to hire a full-time staff member and open a space we need financial support. We know there are hundreds of youth in this region in direct need of our services. To get where we need to be, we need direct community engagement and Tunes and Tapas was just one way for folks to directly engage. It was such a special night for so many reasons. Proud Haven was so thrilled to have the support for the community that included those in attendance, local young and talented musicians  by jazz ensemble Funky Fly Project.

A young boy smiling and holding a microphone
Young Leader of the Funky Fly Project

Complimentary wine was provided from Pittsburgh Winery and there several awesome auction items including tickets to City Theater events and Janet Jackson tickets! The 50/50, sold by a couple volunteers from the Steel City Sisters, a  local chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, itself raised $250.00 for Proud Haven. Additional music was provided by the talents of singer-songwriter Mike Cali, indie duo Some Kind of Animal, and the infamous Phat Man Dee.

Phat Man Dee performance – Hey Fat Chick

Three performers on stage: one singing, one dancing, and one playing guitar
Sister P of the Steel City Sisters spreading her wings with Phat Man Dee at Tunes and tapas event.

Phat Man Dee’s performance at Tunes and Tapas can be seen here

Lindsay Cashman and Kyle’s announcement of Proud Haven’s new LGBTQIA+ priority housing can be seen here.

If you’d like to support Proud Haven, feel free to check out their website and check out their Facebook page for updates on future events and local meetings and volunteer drives. Their next event, Legal Rights Series: Evictions, Leases, and Landlordswill be held on November 29th, at 7 p.m., and will feature an attorney discussing what you should do if you think you may be evicted from your residence.


Proud Haven is proud to announce that we are hiring our first full-time employee, a residential program director! Click HERE for more info on the position  Please feel free to share and send any questions to Alana.Fields@proudhaven.org or Kyle.C.Webster@proudhaven.org

This article originally appeared on QueerPgh.com. This article is preserved as a part of the Q Archives project. Please consider donating to help preserve Pittsburgh’s Queer history.