We’re now 3 weeks into Eden House. It’s been a busy time, so we’re having an update.
What we’ve accomplished:
- Cleaned up
- Gotten the plumbing mostly repaired
- Been broken into 3 times, (local thieves, not transphobia as far as we know) and house security has held each time.
- Improved house security – secured the ladder, installed concertina wire atop the wall in places, replaced many of the locks, and installed motion detector lights
- Developed strong relationships with our neighbors. Honestly , the theives have been a blessing – they’ve given us a non-controversial roject to cooperate on.
- purchased basic household furnishings – cooking equipments, fridge, microwave, a plastic table, mattresses, curtains
- Made more household furnishings – we’ve made 3 sofas and 5 beds. (Tomato crates are amazing!).
- Bought basic carpentry tools, got past some gender stereotypes about what’s appropriate women’s work, and had basic tool use classes. Everyone caught on, and now is much more self sufficient.
- built a chicken coop
- Planted a garden
What Is Eden House, How is a ‘Trans Haven’ different from a ‘hidey hole’ or temp shelter?
A ‘hidey hole’ is a temporary place for a trans person to hide while we get them out. We have these in various places around the world. They’re uncomfortable bare rooms, not a place to live very long.
Some organizations make Queer homeless shelters. A place where a queer person can come and stay safely, but not very comfortably for the long term.
Instead, we’ve chosen to make a more ‘plush’ place. Trans folks can come and stay as long as they like. We help them find productive work within the context of the Haven. Some may choose to stay their entire lives, some may choose to leave soon.
Financially, we expect the place to become self supporting, a communal living space. Folks come and go at a stereotypical ‘hippy commune’, soem staying a long time. We can do much the same.
Obviously it’s a bigger undertaking than a minimal place with crammed in bunk beds. So why do it?
First, Kenya’s a big country, we regularly get folks asking us for help. Mostly in danger in a small town, they just need a place to go and a bit of travel money. Renting an apartment for each is expensive. In the end, Eden House becomes a free place to send folks.
Second, if folks are housed independent of each other, they’re without mutual support – at Eden House a job training program or remote work system or trauma support is easy to set up. Spread out, it’s not.
Third, Kenya is indeed dangerous – we picked a place with a wall, and it’ll take a lot of guts to attack a house full of people with good security (we’ve already made the house look a bit like a fortress – local thieves have been ‘pentesting’ it for us).
Fourth, institutions (police demanding bribes, local religious leaders stirring hate) have a harder target. We are already a resource for our neighbors (our neighbor benefits from our security arrangements, our other neighbor is a vendor (She supplies our chickens)).
Fifth, this is the start of a long term project– we can expand and form a constantly growing queer community. To do that people need to feel free to stay in or around the project.
To those of you who don’t remember the 80’s, Queer havens like San Francisco’s Castro and New York’s Christopher Street were important organizing centers.
If we have a strong community in one country or one city in East Africa, we can expand out and create change in the entire region. It’s not just Kenya that will change, but all East Africa.
Sixth, Kenya is a place we can get folks from the Middle East or Africa to easily, and those are some of the worst places to be trans now. Eden House makes our other operations much, much easier.
Seventh, Kenya’s a country with an improving record of human rights, largely outside the fascism taking over many countries. It might end up as a base to retreat to.
We’re excited! It’s new times. This article is a follow on to our main post about Eden House.