Last week, we wrapped up our two-week Rainbow Build in St. Paul. On Monday, August 20 we kicked off the Rainbow Build to carry on the torch that Women Build started on the same home.
With my magical luck within my AmeriCorps summer position, I got the opportunity to volunteer on a build for the first time while also learning more about how I (and other individuals) can support the LGBTQIA+ community. Please take a walk with me through the two weeks of Rainbow Build:
Day 1: Kick-Off
Day one started with quite a bit of rain - but our small group of five volunteers, one AmeriCorps member, and one site supervisor were determined to make progress. Marcia (our site supervisor) decided that since it was pretty wet outside, we would work on insulation and laying the radon barrier in the basement.
After (what I feel is quickly) finishing both of those projects, we moved on to putting up the ceiling barriers to prep for drywall. Let me tell you, it is not easy!
Now on to the learning part. Well, LGBTQIA+ specific learning, that is. Every day during Rainbow Build we had wonderful speakers present from various programs in the community. This particular day we had the pleasure to hear from Matt who is the Director of Advancement at JustUs Health.
If you knew Rainbow Health Initiative and Minnesota AIDS Project, then you know JustUs Health. Last year, the two action groups combined and have double to power for advocating and creating a safe space for members of the LGBTQIA+ community to talk about and participate in initiatives surrounding their health, living conditions, and every day lives.
JustUs Health came both Monday and Tuesday of the first week of Rainbow Build. The speakers addressed eliminating the spread of HIV and affordable housing issues that people in the LGBTQIA+ community have.
Day 4: The Small and Hard-Working
Coming back Thursday, I was excited to see what else got done in the house I left on Monday. I saw that the barriers had been finished throughout the house, railings for the porch were installed, and siding was started. It's amazing how much a building can progress in just two days!
Our task for the day was supporting the roof of the porch and to start painting. In our small but mighty group of three volunteers, none of us had used the saw or nail gun we were going to use for the day. It was really fun watching everyone take their turn and learn something new! I also learned that (in my opinion) nail guns are a lot of fun.
Our lunch speaker was Executive Director of Breaking Free, Terry Forliti. Breaking Free helps women and men escape from situations of prostitution. It also helps many trans-women throughout each year by helping them to transition into better living situations to "break free" from the oppression of prostitution.
Day 8: Nearing the End
On my final day volunteering, we were working on siding and the flashing for the roofing of the porch. Both were new to me, but I was ready for the challenge! We were steadily working our way towards finishing up the front of the house, which is a major milestone.
When the time came for lunch, we were visited by Program Manager for Avenues for Homeless Youth, Ashley Morgan. She came to explain the program and how homeless youth are able to be provided avenues for housing through volunteers offering places for them to stay for certain periods of time.
A Year of Colorful Experiences
Now that Rainbow Build is completed, I have become a more colorful person due to my experiences and knowledge I gained through this experience. I wouldn't change it for a minute. Rainbow Build is annual, so if you're interested after hearing my experience - feel free to look for it next year!
Complete List of Speakers
If you're looking for information regarding LGBTQIA+ housing, look at the programs below.
August 20th: Matt Toburen, JustUs Health
August 21st: Asneth Omare, JustUs Health
August 22nd: Stephanie Plaster, The LinkMN
August 23rd: Terry Forliti, Breaking Free
August 24th: Nathan Thompson, Spirit on Lake
August 28th: Ryan Berg, Avenues for Homeless Youth
August 29th: Ashley Morgan, Avenues for Homeless Youth
August 30th: Bethany Elliot-Thul, Boynton Health Services
August 31st: Spencer Czech, Youth & Aids Projects