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First trans-specific homeless shelter opens in North Philadelphia

Philadelphia's 1st trans-specific homeless shelter opens
Philadelphia's 1st trans-specific homeless shelter opens 01:54

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia's first homeless shelter focused on people of a transgender experience is set to open in a matter of days.  

"We want to make sure that we are meeting the needs of the community," Tatyana Woodard said.

Woodard is the executive director of the newly formed Ark of Safety LGBTQ+ safe haven. Based in North Philly, the first of its kind in Philadelphia, the space will focus on emergency shelter and wellness services in particular for trans women of color. 

Woodard knows the need because she experienced homelessness herself 

"I was couch surfing. I was doing survival sex work to keep a hotel roof over my head," Woodard said.

According to a report by the UCLA Williams Institute, 17% of people who identify as LGBT have experienced homelessness in their lives. But the issue is direr for trans people.

"We see alarming rate of violence towards [trans people]," Woodard said, "alarming rate of being marginalized, sexual assault."

"Spaces like this are much needed," Celena Morrison, executive director of the Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs, said. "It is a godsend that we have these spaces for those folks."

For security concerns, Eyewitness News is withholding the exact location of the Ark of Safety. They'll have 12 beds, health screenings, food and offer a six-month program covering financial literacy, job readiness and rehousing 

"The experience of housing insecurity is a trauma that lives with folks for a very long time," Morrison said. 

The space does not officially open its doors until next week. However, showing the critical need for a place like this, they are already getting referrals.

"A lot of work to do, a lot of work to do and this is why we're here," Bishop Romaine Gibbs, president of Ark of Safety, said. "We have to realize that our trans community are not going anywhere. A lot of them are in hiding so this is why we have the Ark of Safety to bring them out of hiding and get them back into the full force of life."

The Ark of Safety is raising money on a popular online fundraising platform.

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