Morris Home Helps Philadelphia’s Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Community

Morris Home provides a safe environment for transgender people to learn and practice skills to live a safe and healthy lifestyle. (Photo: Taylor Allen)

BY: TAYLOR ALLEN

Philadelphia’s Morris Home is the only treatment and recovery house in the country specifically catered to transgender and gender nonconforming people.

Program Director Laura Sorenson explains the reality of many trans people going through recovery.

“We know that trans and gender nonconforming people are likely to delay or avoid drug and alcohol treatment because of fears of harassment and discrimination,” said Sorenson.

This short and long-term rehabilitation center combats these fears by having trans-affirming services.

Other treatment and recovery houses that do not specifically cater to transgender people often lack harm reduction services for trans people specifically.

Within the 8-bed facility, clients have daily psychotherapy group and individual therapy. In addition, clients are taught life, mindfulness, and job-seeking skills.

The majority of Morris Home clients come by self-referral. Community partners include the Mazzoni Center, a health care provider for LGBT people, and Philadelphia FIGHT, an AIDS service organization that provides care, education, advocacy, and research.

Patient’s ages at Morris Home currently range anywhere from late teens to early sixties. The majority of patients stay anywhere from four to six months. When clients are ready for discharge, every patient receives an individual release plan and is encouraged to continue intensive outpatient care.

The majority of patients at Morris Home are transwomen of color. According to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), 2016 was the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the United States. 27 were murdered, with the majority of victims being transwomen of color.

Jade Butler, a transwoman who is in her second attempt at long-term recovery, describes Morris Home as a safe space.

“It’s a safe haven for girls that, like, have nowhere to go, who can’t turn to their family,” Butler said.

The majority of patients rely on medical assistance. Therefore, there are concerns centering around the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to Sorenson, the status of the ACA directly affects how long clients may stay at the facility, as well as funds available for drug and alcohol treatment.

Sorenson would like the house to expand its services in the future. She went on to explain that the Morris Home trans-affirming model can be redone.

“I absolutely think that this program in Philadelphia can expand,” Sorenson said. “But more than that, I think we have created a model that can be replicated in other places.”

Morris Home will be celebrating its fifth year anniversary in April.

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