Lucie’s Place of Little Rock (Pulaski County) is a nonprofit organization providing support for LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning/queer) young adults experiencing homelessness in central Arkansas. Lucie’s Place aims to provide housing, resources, case management, and job skills training. Lucie’s Place is the only organization in Arkansas working to support young LGBTQ+ people experiencing homelessness.
Lucie’s Place was founded by Penelope Poppers. After the death of her friend Lucie Marie Hamilton in 2009, Poppers wanted to start an organization to serve the LGBTQ+ community in honor of Hamilton, who was a mentor and advocate to many. In 2011, Poppers—along with Diedra Levi, Mike Lauro, and Karen Thompson (Hamilton’s mother)—planned community meetings, mostly at Boulevard Bread Company on South Main Street in Little Rock, to gauge the level of support among neighbors and community members. Poppers and her team also strove to communicate the pressing need for services to homeless LGBTQ+ young people. According to a study by the American Center for Progress, forty percent of individuals experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ despite the fact that LGBTQ+ people make up only five to ten percent of the general population. Lucie’s Place officially gained 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in June 2012, and much of the organization’s early focus was on reaching out and teaming up with other homeless service providers in the state to advocate on behalf of LGBTQ+ people seeking those services.
Lucie’s Place gained national attention in 2014 when activist Scott Wooledge of New York began an online campaign to counter anti-LGBTQ+ statements made by northwestern Arkansas residents Michelle Duggar and Jim Bob Duggar of the television show 19 and Counting. Wooledge urged followers to counteract the Duggar messaging by donating to Lucie’s Place. The donations brought in by this campaign all over the world helped Poppers to open the drop-in center in the 300 Spring Street Building in August 2015. The location served as a hub where members could come for intake, case management, and other support. It also served as office space for Poppers and her staff.
Poppers became the director of the organization full time in 2015 and hired an AmeriCorps VISTA worker later that year. In 2017, a second full-time staff member was hired. In October 2016, Lucie’s Place opened a four-bed residence to offer housing to members and, in 2017, purchased an eight-bed residence to provide more housing. Also in 2017, the organization was named “Agency of the Year” by the Arkansas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. The following year, Rev. Johnette Fitzjohn replaced Poppers as the new executive director.
Most people who have sought services at Lucie’s Place faced rejection within their own families. The organization is almost entirely community funded, including ongoing support from the Darragh Foundation from the organization’s inception.
Plans were announced for the second Lucie’s Place home to open in 2018. However, the organization struggled during Fitzjohn’s tenure as executive director. In a May 18, 2020, article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, some residents and staff members complained about the decreasing representation of LGBTQ+ people in the organization’s leadership, which hindered the ability of Lucie’s Place to respond to their needs. Turmoil within the organization, as well as local threats against the shelter, led Fitzjohn to close the facility, after which she submitted her resignation. Remaining staff and board members promised to regroup and reopen.
In November 2020, Lucie’s Place announced its new director, Xejeia Freelon (who prefers to be known as “x” and uses they/them pronouns). The drop-in center moved to 307 West 7th Street in Little Rock.
For additional information:
Adams, Greg. “Continued Commitment to Lucie’s Place.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 24, 2020, pp. 3H.
Hall, Rebekah. “‘Meant to Be’ at Lucie’s Place.” Arkansas Times, December 6, 2018, pp. 10–11. Online at https://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/meant-to-be-at-lucies-place/Content?oid=26548847 (accessed June 1, 2022).
Lucie’s Place. http://www.luciesplace.org (accessed June 1, 2022).
“‘Lucie’s Place Is Their Place.” Arkansas Times, January 21, 2016. Online at https://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/lucies-place-is-their-place/Content?oid=4249654 (accessed June 1, 2022).
Stromquist, Kat, and Ginny Monk. “LR Shelter for LGBTQ Young People Shuts.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 18, 2020, pp. 1A, 2A.
Amber Louise Hood
Little Rock, Arkansas
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