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TruEvolution opens Project Legacy to provide housing and supportive care to LGBTQ+ residents

Project Legacy's Downtown Riverside Campus
Jessica Greenwell, KVCR Public Media
Project Legacy's Downtown Riverside Campus

TruEvolution is a non-profit organization founded in 2007, that provides supportive care and resources to the inland Empire's most vulnerable populations. On June 30, the group celebrated the grand opening of Project Legacy in Downtown Riverside. The center is a 10+ million-dollar campus for LGBTQ and HIV+ youth, and veterans experiencing homelessness, and is a public-private partnership between the Housing Authority of the County of Riverside and TruEvolution, and is a state of California Homekey site. The experience gained through years of advocacy and a shift in direction, are in part, what led to the scope of services that Project Legacy offers. Gabriel Maldonado is TruEvolution’s President and CEO.

When I started TruEvolution, the original vision was for us to create a set of programs and advocacies that would move youth, particularly youth of color, youth from impoverished communities, to be able to access higher education. That was that was the concept. And within the first three years, I began to see that there were so many youth who were coming from very different starting places, that the idea of trying to achieve education, or going to college was so distant when you're dealing with homelessness and substance abuse in the home, and lack of education and home domestic violence and mental health issues. And so the organization pivoted about 10 years ago, to really go to the providing the basic needs of services in our community, with the focus on those that are most vulnerable, the LGBT community, seniors, and many of our youth.

Yosef Saenz, a resident at Project Legacy, describes his life before recovery.

It's like constantly on the run, constantly moving because you can't stay in the same place for too long. You're gonna get shooed out by authorities, you’re gonna get hurt by the other people on the streets who are just out for survival. And it's just a struggle. And it's like, when you're thinking about where am I going next, what's happening next, this hour next hour, you know, you can’t think about how am I going to get stable?

Saenz feels his recovery would not be possible without the type of support that TruEvolution provides. And that's made all the difference.

TruEvolution, it's like they've got support. We've got the caseworkers with different resources. I'm not even familiar with all the resources they have available to me, you know, but I mean, if I'm like running low on groceries, they're going to like DoorDash something to me. And you know, if I need to go to the grocery store, they send us rides to get there to get to our appointments, you know, they're making sure that we're taken care of. And that's pretty awesome. I went from having no support, you know, and just watching a friend pass awa,y and not being able to get support for him, to, I have everything I need to get myself established and stable.

And it's about more than physical needs. Emotional support is key. Gabriel Maldonado.

When people believe that their circumstances of life, no matter where you come from, no matter who you are, it doesn't matter how you identify. But if you come from a set of circumstances where you feel like those circumstances will never be any different, it disables you from being able to achieve anything further. So, Project Legacy, TruEvolution, our mission is really focused around providing 360 services as best as we can. And it's not just the most basic of social services, but it's also wellness, recreation, fitness, nutrition, things that we often take for granted and really is a privilege to most people, and at the core is really fundamental to our overall healing and wellness. And so, we're hoping that this facility won't just be a place for traditional social services, but it'll be a place where we can provide wellness and recreation as well.

Saenz agrees that having stability, comfort and compassion, along with his basic needs being met, are what give him hope and allow him to envision a life beyond the day-to-day, or even moment-to-moment survival. And now that he has this, he's thinking about what his future could be.

I started training for smart recovery. It's one of the tools that I was using to help me get clean. So, I'm trying to be a facilitator. That way I can help other people in recovery and addiction too.

Projects Legacy’s 41,000 square-foot campus is divided into six lots across the property, some named after LGBTQ+ pioneers, like George M. Johnson, author of banned queer book, All Boys Aren't Blue, and Reverend Benita Ramsey, Executive Director of the Rainbow Pride Youth Alliance. For more information, visit https://www.truevolution.org/project-legacy

I'm Jessica Greenwell KVCR News.