Executive director Ruby Corado has since launched a GoFundMe appeal with the goal of raising $75,000. This amount could keep the shelter running not more than another month, and the nonprofit will likely lay off half its employees, many of whom are former clients, said Alexis Blackmon, Casa Ruby’s director of government affairs. As of Tuesday evening, donors have contributed more than $74,000. Corado could not be reached for comment.
“We have notified our customers to let them know, but we will not stop them from coming even after the first one [of October],” Blackmon said. “The purpose of the GoFundMe is to continue to raise funds to try to … offer some form of services in the community. So, depending on how well we fundraise and our basic goals, we may be able to. to try to self-finance a low barrier [shelter].”
Casa Ruby opened in 2012 as a small bilingual center with a handful of volunteers. Since then, the nonprofit says it has expanded to an organization with more than 100 employees, shelter beds in seven locations and a new office in El Salvador. It now offers a range of services, from emergency shelter to health advice to immigration services. In 2014, the nonprofit earned $261,725 a year, according to its federal tax filings, and Corado earned just $31,895. As of 2019, the nonprofit was bringing in nearly $3.5 million in annual revenue, and Corado was earning nearly $250,000.
Still, the organization struggled to cover some expenses. Earlier this year, Corado launched a separate GoFundMe campaign to save the nonprofit housing program. Corado said in that fundraising appeal that an electrical fire and subsequent dispute with the landlord forced the organization out of the building it was renting at 7530 Georgia Avenue NW. This campaign raised over $108,000.
A spokesman for the Menkiti Group, which owns the building on Georgia Avenue, said in a March statement to the Washington Blade that Corado’s organization had not paid rent since 2018 and owed the owners more than $450,000 .
However, Corado wrote on GoFundMe this week that his nonprofit was “prepared” to return to the Georgia Avenue location before the city announced its decision. A representative for the Menkiti Group did not immediately return messages.
Corado filed a discrimination complaint against DHS in March, according to the Washington Blade, after the official who oversaw the nonprofit grant allegedly engaged in anti-transgender discrimination. Soon after, DHS announced it might cut the amount it awarded the nonprofit in half, a move Corado told the Blade she thought was retaliation for her complaint.
DHS representatives did not return messages seeking comment. In a previously released statement to reporters, Director Laura Zeilinger wrote: “DHS is committed to the safety and well-being of youth, including LGBTQ+ youth, who we know are disproportionately experiencing homelessness. Do not decrease funding for LGBTQ+ youth services, which will continue to be offered through the Continuum of Care. Grant renewal decisions are based on ensuring accountability and continuity of quality services and the safety of our residents. We value organizations communities that provide these services and honor the contributions of Casa Ruby.”
At a press conference Tuesday celebrating the opening of a Chase Bank, Mayor Muriel E. Bower (D) said she did not know “specifically” why DHS had declined to renew the grant.
“That was an agency decision. There’s probably a good reason,” Bowser said. “Our duty is to use D.C. taxpayer dollars appropriately and effectively.”