True Colors Fund co-founder Cyndi Lauper and executive director Gregory Lewis announced the appointment of Jama Shelton as the new director of the fund’s Forty to None Project. Launched in June 2012, the Forty to None Project is the first and only national organization focused solely on bringing an end to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth homelessness. The creation of the project director position is part of the True Colors Fund’s expanded commitment to giving a voice to the nearly forty percent of the 1.6 million homeless youth who identify as gay or transgender—and marks the first position of its kind on the national level.
Shelton, who will assume her new responsibilities on March 1st, is a nationally recognized expert and leader on the issue of gay and transgender youth homelessness. During her 9-year tenure at the Ali Forney Center in New York City, she played an integral role in the building of the most expansive housing program in the nation for gay and transgender youth. She is a professor at both Hunter College and the NYU School of Social Work, and has developed and conducted extensive training for service providers around the country. Shelton is a leading authority on the unique needs of transgender and gender non-conforming youth experiencing homelessness, which is the topic of her dissertation research. She is currently finishing her PhD in Social Welfare at the CUNY Graduate Center and is expecting to graduate in May.
“I’m honored by the confidence that Cyndi and Gregory have shown in my ability to lead the Forty to None Project. In my years doing this work, I have learned that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender homeless youth have very specific needs. As the first director for the Forty to None Project, my work will focus on making sure that those young people’s needs are met, and that they have a voice that is sorely missing in society today,” she added.
On behalf of True Colors Fund, Lauper and Lewis said, “We’re ecstatic to have someone of Jama’s stature and vast expertise join the True Colors Fund and play such an integral role in moving our work forward. We are confident that under Jama’s leadership the Forty to None Project will continue to transform the conversation around this issue and make significant strides in ensuring that no young person is ever homeless again because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Jeff Krehely, the incoming chief foundation officer of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and a co-chair of the Forty to None Project advisory board, said, “I could not be happier that Jama is joining the Forty to None Project. Her expertise – both her years of work with LGBT homeless kids and her academic record – will bring new energy and power to a community that is too often neglected.”
Shelton is the newest hire in an expanded leadership team at the True Colors Fund who bring more than thirty-five years of combined experience in non-profit management and innovation. Her wide array of experience will play a vital role in fulfilling the initial five year strategic plan for the Forty to None Project, which primarily focuses its efforts on ending gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth homelessness by educating and engaging the public, advocating within government and media, creating empowering experiences for these young people, facilitating leading research, and aiding service providers in building their capacity and creating an inclusive environment within their agencies.
The True Colors Fund was recently awarded a 3-year $75,000 grant to directly support this position by The Palette Fund. “Our partnership with the True Colors Fund continues to highlight how The Palette Fund loves to work: identifying forward-thinking leaders, supporting their efforts to create something new, and staying the course so that lasting transformation occurs. The hiring of Jama to lead the newly developed Forty to None Project does exactly that and we look forward to working together in this important area for years to come,” stated Terrence Meck, Co-Founder & President, The Palette Fund.
A young person who Jama has worked with shared the following upon learning of her appointment: “I remember when she pulled me aside and told me to basically work on me. It’s like she knew the hardship I endured while growing up that lead to the actions I was performing on a day-to-day basis. I know that she will help this program to be a success while changing lives at the same time. Some have the gift to sing – Jama has this gift to motivate and change!”
Click here for Jama’s full biography and photo.