“Our newest work is to build transitional and permanent supportive housing for people who are homeless, with a focus on those living with HIV, LGBTQIA+ youth, and LGBTQIA+ seniors,” says Gabriel Maldonado, CEO and founder of TruEvolution, first row, second from left.
“Our newest work is to build transitional and permanent supportive housing for people who are homeless, with a focus on those living with HIV, LGBTQIA+ youth, and LGBTQIA+ seniors,” says Gabriel Maldonado, CEO and founder of TruEvolution, first row, second from left. Credit: truevolution.org


TruEvolution and the Housing Authority of the County of Riverside have joined forces in an unprecedented public-private partnership to introduce Project Legacy, a groundbreaking housing development that aims to uplift specific vulnerable and underserved communities in Riverside County. 

This innovative initiative tackles various pressing issues prevalent in the Inland Empire, including health inequities, limited access to care, lack of affordable housing, chronic homelessness, and language barriers. 

Established in 2007 at UC Riverside by a group of undergraduates, TruEvolution has flourished and is committed to promoting health equity and racial justice for Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ individuals in the Inland Empire. 

The organization provides transitional housing support, HIV health services, behavioral health services, and other essential social services. Their mission involves empowering communities and addressing the disparities caused by broader social determinants such as housing and mental health. The organization is listed as a resource for LGBTQ+ youth in the California Department of Education’s Region 10. 

A unique service for the LGBTQ+ community

Project Legacy stands out for its unique focus on LGBTQ+ individuals, making it the only Project Homekey site primarily serving this community. Approximately 80% of the residents in the housing program will identify as LGBTQ+, including those living with HIV, youth transitioning from the foster care system, and senior citizens. 

By implementing a community campus model that integrates comprehensive supportive services and residential bungalows, Project Legacy offers an extensive solution for the region’s most vulnerable communities, including those facing co-occurring conditions and chronic homelessness. 

The community campus encompasses several essential features. It includes 49 transitional housing beds and an overnight housing manager to ensure a safe and supportive environment. 

Additionally, there is on-site primary and specialty health services, a mental health clinic, a workforce and job training center, a fitness center, expected to be completed in 2024, and a community garden will be available to enhance the overall well-being of the residents. 

Each craftsman-style bungalow within the development  bears the name of influential LGBTQ+ leaders and icons, paying homage to their remarkable contributions. Reverend Benita Ramsey, George M. Johnson, Twiggy Pucci Garçon, James Baldwin, and Marsha P. Johnson are among the individuals honored in this way.

Beatitude (“Be – Attitude”), Bishop Zachary Jones (above) of the Unity Fellowship Church Movement (UFCM) and Benita Ramsey (below), Executive Director Rainbow Pride Youth Alliance and UFCM Elder, at the Project Legacy grand opening celebration.

The culmination of dedicated effort

To commemorate the historic Stonewall riots, which took place June 28, 1969, the grand opening event for Project Legacy took place on Friday, June 30, 2023. Marsha P. Johnson, a Black LGBTQ+ activist and community leader, played a pivotal role in the Stonewall riots, making this date particularly meaningful. Johnson’s legacy continues to inspire support for houseless and vulnerable LGBTQ+ youth, which aligns with Gabriel Maldonado’s, the CEO of TruEvolution, dedication to their well-being. 

The event was very well-attended by local, regional and state leaders as well as California and out-of-state supporters. 

The realization of Project Legacy is the culmination of years of dedicated effort, receiving invaluable support and advocacy from legislative, community, and private entities. TruEvolution expresses deep gratitude to all those who have contributed their time, assistance, and expertise to bring this vision to life. This achievement signifies a significant step forward for the Inland Empire community, instilling hope and creating opportunities for those in need. 

When asked about Project Legacy’s anticipated impact on the region, Sabrina Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Civil Rights Institute of Inland Southern California replied “I think accountability in our allyship. […] There is a difference between symbolic components and actually doing the work. I hope this is a space where we can be accountable, show up, and demonstrate true allyship. And that’s to talk about our region, what’s happening in Riverside and to keep building and growing and in having action behind our words. That’s important to me and I’m excited about the greater impact.”

The site has been toured by notable figures such as Harold Phillips, White House Advisor and Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, and Riverside Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson, both recognizing the urgent need for a safe community space catering to LGBTQ+ youth in the region. Mayor Lock Dawson has expressed her belief that the center not only provides a home but also instills hope, which she considers the most vital support for those who have lost it. 

Through the completion of Project Legacy, TruEvolution takes a pivotal step in fulfilling its mission. The expansive development spans over 41,000 square feet, divided into six lots. 

When asked what he thinks this inclusion will do for the region, Senior Advisor California 100 and Event co-sponsor Jesse Melgar responded, “I think that there is a lot of LGBTQ infrastructure in Palm Springs, which is still part of the Inland Empire, not so much out here. So what this does for this part of the Inland Empire is it puts a stake in the ground and says ‘We are here. Our communities are not only in LA, we’re not only in San Francisco, we’re not only in Palm Springs. We’re in Riverside, we’re in San Bernardino and other parts of the region. And so that’s what this means for the region – that there’s a space here for queer kids and queer communities.’” 

TruEvolution CEO Gabriel Maldonado, Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, Equality California Advisory Board Member, Jesse Melgar, at the Launch of the Legacy Project on June 30, 2023 (source: Terrisha Kearse)

TruEvolution estimates that the transitional housing program at Project Legacy will be able to serve approximately 120 people per year, offering a short-term housing solution for residents striving to stabilize their lives. While the housing units will only be accessible to inhabitants via thumbprint technology, other services and parts of the campus will be open to the public, fostering community engagement. 

The successful realization of Project Legacy was made possible through the steadfast efforts of Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes and Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes.

From left to right Asm. Sabrina Cervantes Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes during the Project Legacy grand opening event.

When asked how this project and the partnership got its start, Asm. Cervantes explained, “It’s because of Gabriel Maldonado’s visionary leadership. He was the one who came to us years ago sharing that this was a project that we want to see happening right here in our own backyards […] I was able to advocate for the $10 million in the state budget and really fight for our region’s fair share […] because for decades we have been underfunded and under-resourced and I came to the legislature to change that. And through this project we were finally able to see this come to fruition.” 

Foreshadowing another major announcement shared during the event, Asm. Cervantes said “We are absolutely going to keep this momentum going. This is just the start. Our potential is limitless and [that] is what this project shows today. Because of visions, we are able to come and really look at what we can do with city partnerships, county partnerships, state partnerships. This is just the tip of the iceberg […] And this is what we can do when we come together.”

During the celebration, Maldonado announced another major win for the region. Asm Sabrina Cervantes, Jessie Melgar and Gabe Maldonado are co-founding the Inland Empire LGBTQ Resource Center with a $3 million initial investment from the state budget.  Asm. Cervantes secured the additional funds. Maldonado shared the initial support will be budgeted as follows: $1 million to go building construction; $1 million to expansion in southwestern region of Riverside County; and $1million will go to the newly established LGBTQ empowerment fund, which will support regional organizations in the Inland Empire. 

With the unwavering support of regional and state supporters, community allies and a dedicated team, Maldonado continues to lay the foundation for inclusive communities and safe spaces in Riverside.  

The partnership between the Housing Authority of the County of Riverside and TruEvolution has been crucial in bringing this transformative project to fruition.

Asante-Ra is a versatile writer committed to delivering informative and engaging content. They are a voracious media consumer, and lifelong learner passionate about science, health, gender diversity, accessibility, racial equity, and civic participation. They have a broad range of interests including society, culture, popular education, history, human sexuality, romance, comedy, poetry, and exploring topics such as indigeneity, world religions, mythology, astrology, and Blackness.