It started as an idea in 2007, and after a decade and two legal name changes later, the Rainbow Housing Coalition is on the hunt for Pinellas County’s first rental property that will provide affordable housing to those who identify as LGBTQ and community members with disabilities.
The destination is the Gulfport and St. Petersburg area, but finding relatively cheap property for six to 12 housing units hasn’t been a walk in the park for coalition founder Robert Pope.
“We have a real estate team out looking, but a lot of options are actually owned by the city,” Pope said. “We’ve spent the last six to eight months establishing a board, and now we just have to find a property.”
The 501(c)(3) will eventually base the units’ monthly pricing on the renter’s income, according to Pope. That information will come closer to the actual building of the housing units.
“We find that a large group of gays, lesbians and trans are struggling here in Pinellas County,” Pope said. “So, we decided to find, prepare and work with other groups to provide housing.”
After living in Town Shores condominium complex in Gulfport, he realized the area’s potential for gay-friendly housing.
According to Pope, the coalition plans to offer “compound style” living, and provide a common sitting or kitchen area so that community members will have a place to meet and relax.
“It can be a lonely life, in this community,” Pope said.
The Nuts and Bolts
Currently the Rainbow Housing Coalition has 12 board members, all dedicated to making the inclusive complex a reality.
“I identify as queer, and I always have wanted to get involved with the community,” said coalition secretary and board member Cleo Chitester. “I want to be a voice for the younger crowd with this.”
While the search continues, board members ask that interested community members fill out an online survey that will provide data on the local population.
The coalition is a non-profit that fully relies on funding from other groups and the federal government. Without that data, organizers say, grants are harder to come by.
For more information on accessing the online survey, visit rainbowhousingcoalition.org.