Iya Dammons founded Baltimore Safe Haven to protect the LGBTQ community from housing discrimination, addiction, and street violence.
No one gets left behind on Iya Dammons' watch. As a Black transgender woman who faced homelessness, drug addiction, violence, and survival sex work, Dammons knows how little support is available for Baltimore's most vulnerable. She founded Baltimore Safe Haven to improve the quality of life for LGBTQ people in Baltimore. What started as mobile outreach from a van in 2018 expanded to offer everything Dammons wished she had in the past: a permanent address, workforce development, help with name changes, clothing, showers, and a safe space. While former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson was actively dismantling the few housing protections transgender people had, Dammons opened the doors to a Baltimore Safe Haven's shelter. Baltimore Safe Haven recently expanded to provide housing for LGBTQ seniors with Legacy House. When the world shut down due to COVID-19, Dammons stepped up even more. "We were in the streets masked up trying to help our people who didn't have a place to stay. We were boots on the ground when there was no one out there, and it was still deadly," she told the Washington Blade. "We gave money support. We gave out hotel rooms along with other organizations. We gave out hair and hair cuts. We served our population because who was going to be there for us? Everyone closed their doors when it was either them or us." It's the work of people like Dammons, whose brilliant leadership and tireless efforts prove that Black Trans Lives Matter.