Ava Pipitone exemplifies the magic inherent in the LGBTQ community. The entrepreneur, who uses they/them pronouns, is the founder of HostHome, a home-sharing platform designed to build community and provide temporary emergency housing to LGBTQ community members. For a population that often faces high barriers to secure housing, HostHome has the power to make a sweeping difference in the lives of many.
The seeds of HostHome were first planted while Pipitone was serving as Executive Director of the Baltimore Transgender Alliance and co-owner of Red Emma’s, a worker cooperative restaurant and bookstore in Baltimore. Pipitone’s involvement in the local LGBTQ community gave them a unique vantage point and the insight to recognize the needs of the people they interacted with everyday. Pipitone noticed that some community members struggled to find a place to spend the night, while others slept in homes with extra rooms. Soon, Pipitone began to match hosts with guests in need. The pairings, which had started as informal introductions between community members, blossomed into a DIY home-sharing experience to combat homelessness for local LGBTQ folks.
Eventually, Pipitone was collaborating with non-profit organizations who also employed home-sharing programs to fight homelessness. As issues began to rise in these programs—investors couldn’t see the work being done, guests didn’t feel connected to a community, and hosts felt it was a huge exercise of trust to bring people into their homes—Pipitone decided to build a software program to solve these problems. Enter HostHome.
On a human level, building the company means educating others and demystifying homelessness. Many of the guests HostHome aims to serve are not chronically homeless. Most make a decent salary but their identities can lead to difficulties in securing permanent housing. Often these guests do not qualify for homeless services and are left searching for a place to stay. “By providing someone temporary housing, we can stop homelessness before it starts,” Pipitone explains.
Pipitone also works to end the stigma around homelessness. “18-24 year olds struggling with housing don’t want to go to a center and say, ‘I’m structurally oppressed.’” So Pipitone decided to meet this generation where they are. They explain, “For these kids, their cell phones can serve as a lifeline through which they can access anything they need. HostHome can serve as a touch point for anyone needing a moment to have their housing guaranteed for them.”
The peace inherent in knowing you have a place to sleep is key for our individual and communal growth. Pipitone explains, “Everyone needs to do their own healing. Our role is to increase access to healing, because once everybody’s healing then we can enter a state of play. Find your play, then you can heal while playing, whether that’s dancing, poetry, or song. And from there, you can enter a space of playful contribution.”
“LGBTQ: We have real magic, right? We’ve had to see things differently and had to find ourselves through it. So playful contribution of the queers will save the world.”