BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Baltimore Safe Haven, a trans-led nonprofit providing housing and support services for at-risk LGBTQ residents, was vandalized with bigoted graffiti on International Transgender Day of Visibility, the group tweeted.
The organization shared images of the words "F--- Pride" and "Die" spray painted on a doorway. Another door was tagged with purple spray paint.
International Transgender Day of Visibility, held annually on March 31, celebrates transgender and gender-nonconforming people and raises awareness about the discrimination they face.
Nicole Wells, a case manager with Baltimore Save Haven, told WJZ she found the graffiti on the group's building when she arrived for work about 8:40 a.m. Thursday.
"I was scared," she said. "I was shaking."
Wells quickly went inside, concerned whoever tagged the building might still be in the area.
"We're in 2022. We're human beings, too," said Wells. "We have feelings like everybody else."
Iya Dammons, the organization's founder and executive director, said the experience is "traumatizing" for her and her staff.
"We just all had to take a breath for a second," she said.
But, she continued, "We're not going to let this break us. We're not going to bend. We're going to do the job."
Baltimore Safe Haven has been the victim of crime before. An LGBTQ youth shelter in North Baltimore was burglarized last October, Dammons said.
Dammons believes the group is being targeted now because it is hosting a Trans Pride block party on June 4. People online have posted hateful comments about her, calling her a "big man in a wig" or saying her mother will dead name her, on pages related to the event.
She called on Baltimore residents to attend the event as a show of support.
"This is when we need the city to stand behind us," said Dammons. "We live in Baltimore, too, our lives matter."
Located in the Charles North neighborhood, Baltimore Safe Haven provides a drop-in center offering food and transitional housing, among other services.
"Baltimore Safe Haven focuses on those members with an annual median income of less than $10,000, who are currently engaged in or have a history in sex work, who are substance users, and who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless," the group says on its site.
Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby released a statement condemning the vandalism.
"I am disgusted to learn about the transphobic and homophobic graffiti that was painted on the property of Baltimore Safe Haven," she said. "Hate has no home in our city, and we will work with our partners to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice."
She called the timing of the act "doubly heartbreaking."
Jamie Grace Alexander, a policy coordinator with the legal advocacy group Free State Justice, said the hateful message overshadows the support services the Baltimore Safe Haven provides to LGBTQ people in need.
Alexander helped the nonprofit organize the painting of a mural that reads "Black Trans Lives Matter" along two blocks of N. Charles Street.
"This is an organization that does incredible work," said Alexander.
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