Proud Haven is one of this year’s Kickball for Cause recipients. They provide a safe shelter for LGBTQIA+ youth (ages 18-30) experiencing homelessness in Pittsburgh through their shelter, Haven House, and a safe and welcoming space for LGBTQIA+ youth under 21 at their drop-in program, Pittsburgh YOUth Haven. They also provide emotional support and resources to help LGBTQIA+ youth develop the skills needed to live independently.
Meet Proud Haven
Proud Haven grew as a volunteer-led organization until Jan of 2022 when Lyndsey Sickler was named Proud Haven’s first Executive Director. From a small organization to a shelter and space that provides a critical connection to LGBTQIA+ youth experiencing homelessness, Proud Haven fills a crucial need in our community.
Their grassroots mentality remains a vital part of their mission, as Sickler said, “It is all hands on deck to the best of our ability. People try to support us in whatever way they can. Our Resident Assistant and I are the only staff.”
Proud Haven looks at all aspects of the individuals they serve. “A lot of our kids have co-occurring issues, they’re not only queer. They come from broken homes. They come from guardians who are struggling with drug habits. They’re unsheltered or housing unstable, and a large percentage are autistic. So we have a unique space where we help people plug into resources and create networks,” said Sickler.
How Proud Haven Works
First conceived in 2012, Proud Haven is a valuable resource for LGBTQIA+ youth in Pittsburgh. They provide housing and support for the nearly 40% of youth experiencing homelessness that identifies as LGBTQIA+. While there are many great resources for those that are unhoused or experiencing unstable housing, Proud Haven provides the unique support and resources LGBTQIA+ youth need.
Often this instability in housing comes from family rejection or harassment and violence at school or in their neighborhood and is so intense that leaving feels like the best alternative. Once they leave home, the issues that come with being unstably housed, including devastating health and psychological consequences, hunger, and the disruption of their education quickly follow.
Proud Haven opened up their shelter, Haven House, in November 2021. Prior to having their own physical space, they offered short-term emergency hotel stays for several years. This was helpful but they were dedicated to finding a permanent, long-term option.
Pittsburgh YOUth Haven, a weekday afternoon youth drop-in program specifically for young adults, 21 and under, opened up in April of 2020. Every day, young people “drop-in” to participate in activities like movie night, a quarterly sleepover, art , game nights and just hang out with other teens like them. For example, every Friday, Artful Therapy, a group counseling and art therapy practice, comes in for the young people to discuss and create works based on a topic of interest to them.
Why We’re Important to Young Pittsburgh
Proud Haven’s mission aligns with PUMP’s agenda for equity in our community. And young Pittsburgh is important to Proud Haven because it is important for LGBTQIA+ youth to see that the Pittsburgh community supports them.
Sickler explained this two-way street perfectly, “I know so many of the folks involved with Kickball for a Cause are part of so many other different kinds of segments of the community. For young people to see people in their community be successful and social, it lets them know that they can get past this awkward and difficult young age.”
Funds from PUMP’s Kickball for a Cause will provide ongoing support for Proud Haven to continue to grow their outreach and offerings.
If you can’t attend this year’s event, you can still make a donation. Your contributions connect vulnerable LGBTQIA+ youth to the support, resources, and, most importantly, the community they need to reach their full potential as independent, confident adults.
There are many ways to get involved with Proud Haven, including:
- Be added to their volunteer mailing list to hear about their latest volunteer opportunities.
- Hold a supply drive. Message Proud Haven to see what they are in most need of.
- Donate food, clothing, hygiene products, gift cards, or something from their Amazon Wishlist.
- Donate money. Sickler puts it best saying “Every penny is an investment in the faith, in our kids, and in our community. Every penny allows us to grow from all of the hard work that got the shelter opened and to maintain the drop-in, to the needs of our future.”