Monthly LGBTQQIA+ Art Marketplaces started popping up this past June in Providence’s Dexter Park, and more recently at indoor locations like WaterFire Arts Center, offering a range of creative works you won’t find anywhere else and a foundation of accessibility. “[These markets] have proven themselves to not only be a safe place for queer and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) artists but it has become a collective community who share ideas and resources,” says Julio E. Berroa, founder of Haus of Codec, a nonprofit organization focused on building community through art and educational empowerment. He notes that queer and BIPOC vendors are given first priority, and fees are on a sliding scale of zero to $50 to ensure income isn’t a barrier when it comes to selling work. But these inclusive markets are just scratching the surface of Haus of Codec’s mission.
In December, the small-but-mighty five-person volunteer board opened the state’s first homeless shelter in Providence for transition-aged youth, a population Haus of Codec defines as ages 18-24, often encompassing individuals who have gone through the juvenile justice system, aged out of foster or state care, were forced out of their homes after revealing their sexual identity to their family, or a number of other reasons. Berroa, GEM, Haley Johnson, Alexander Ruiz, and Charlotte Gagnon, who make up House of Codec, each put their wide-ranging talents and community partnerships together to make six emergency shelter beds available in Providence.
More than just supplying temporary shelter, Haus of Codec is committed to addressing the underlying factors facing youth residents experiencing homelessness. “While traditional shelter models are focused only on the immediate needs of their patrons, we are determined to break the cycle of homelessness for our residents,” says Berroa. “We are explicitly offering shelter to age-specific youth as this demographic sees a greater risk of violence and abuse in larger, less accommodating shelter spaces our state has historically provided.
“Our hope is that through our network of community care providers, Haus of Codec’s residents will be able to not only survive these difficult moments in their life but also thrive as contributing members of society,” continues Berroa. In addition to meeting basic needs in a safe, affirming environment, residents will be connected to resources via AS220, House of Hope CDC, ONE Neighborhood Builders, Project Weber/RENEW, Sojourner House, Youth Pride Inc., and others.
The intersection between art and empowerment is palpable in Haus of Codec’s model for uplifting their residents and the community. Along with raising funds to open the shelter, the ongoing markets offer a space for residents to sell their wares and foster a sense of creativity and independence in making art. “We also welcome community organizations who partner alongside Haus of Codec and who offer essential services for those in need,” says Berroa.
While the markets take a brief pause for the winter as the team focuses their efforts on the new shelter, a flagship event is happening downtown this June with PVDFest, and additional dates will be announced soon. On the horizon, they also look forward to their next property acquisition slated for late 2022, which will add 24 emergency beds and 16 supportive transitional apartments – no small step in their mission of uplifting vulnerable youth in our state. Learn more at HausofCodec.org
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