Our Partners: Princess Janae Place Helps Transgender Individuals Overcome Homelessness
Stories@Gilead - March 31, 2020
Jevon Martin, the founder and CEO of transgender advocacy group Princess Janae Place, was raised with the philosophy that if you have a room to spare, you invite someone in.
When his family moved from an apartment in Harlem to a house in the Bronx, there was a rotating cast of characters staying over – usually invited by his father, who worked as a chauffeur for celebrities.
“When I got my own space I always made sure I had room for one more,” he says. “I would always open up my home for other people.”
That quality stayed with Jevon as he grew up the youngest child and only girl in a big family, went to college and gave birth to a daughter – all while struggling with his gender identity.
“I knew as I got older that something wasn’t working for me,” he says. “I was always a tomboy.”
In the early 2000s, Jevon began taking hormones to transition physically from female to male, and eventually had gender reassignment surgery.
The transition brought with it a newfound sense of community. Jevon joined the underground house and ballroom scene, campaigned for marriage equality and the New York Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, and volunteered at St. Vincent’s Hospital and the GMHC center.
He continued his lifelong effort of hosting people in need of housing, and through this, identified a huge gap in services for transgender individuals. Existing housing programs in New York were difficult to navigate, and rarely trans-affirming. People were being evicted or denied housing because of stigma, and experienced discrimination at every turn.
Jevon wasn’t the only one taking people in. His mentor Janae Banks, a trans woman active in the ballroom scene, was a pillar of the community. Herself once homeless, she made it a point to open her home to people without a place to live. When Janae died of cancer in 2013, Jevon took on her mission of housing gender non-conforming and trans people to the next level, launching Princess Janae’s Place in 2015.
Princess Janae Place is a successful intermediary between existing housing programs and the trans community. Its staff has helped hundreds of trans people transitioning out of homelessness access supportive housing, find work and become part of a community. Through this work, Jevon has seen the transformation housing can have on people’s lives.
“Safe and low-income housing is critical to one's overall well-being and security, and is a fundamental right,” he says. “We believe that people who have a safe space to lay their heads can then access the tools they need to be productive members of society.”
In late 2019, Princess Janae Place began to expand its services following a $200,000 donation from Gilead’s TRANScend Community Impact Fund. The new program, called Housing At-Risk Trans-People (HART), includes enhanced housing outreach, case management and ongoing supportive services.
Jevon feels like the introduction of HART is the beginning of an exciting new era for the organization. But no matter where Princess Janae Place goes from here, the nonprofit’s namesake will always be his North Star.
“She instilled in me the qualities I have today,” he says.
Jevon Martin is the founder and CEO of Princess Janae Place, a New York-based nonprofit that helps transgender individuals transitioning out of homelessness access supportive housing, find work, and become part of a community.