Nigerian man opens 1st NYC shelter for asylum seekers
RDJ Refugee Shelter has transitioned from a part-time service to a full-time residential facility, specializing in the support of LGBTQ asylum-seekers
Edafe Okporo ounces the first and only shelter for asylum-seekers and refugees in New York City.
The shelter specializes in supporting LGBTQ asylum-seekers.
Okporo persuaded the leaders of the RDJ Refugee Shelter to transition from a part-time service to a full-time residential shelter after his own experience with homelessness.
The shelter has 10 beds and has thus far provided temporary housing for more than 80 migrants. RDJ Refugee Shelter also provides legal counseling and job assistance for those in need.
A gay man, and LGBTQ activist, Okporo was forced to undergo conversion therapy by his family.
He told Yahoo News that he was frequently persecuted in his home country for his sexual orientation. The man asserts that he was attacked while in college. After Nigeria made same-sex relationships a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison, he fled the country.
Okporo ended up in Elizabeth, New Jersey where he spent months in a detention center. He was later connected to an attorney who helped him win his deportation case. However, he was left homeless.
Okporo, who has a degree in food science, told Yahoo that he considers himself lucky. “Many asylum-seekers do not have the education or proper documentation to qualify for jobs or shelter,” he said. Transgender asylum-seekers and refugees in the process of transitioning are especially vulnerable because they often lack documentation and frequently experience discrimination and violence in shelters.
“Knowing that New York is one of the most liberal places in the world and people are still subjected to such kind of persecution just makes me wonder where else in the world can LGBTQ migrants be safe,” Okporo said.
After emigrating to the U.S., Okporo has been able to be open about his sexuality and has participated in the city’s annual pride celebrations.
He is also an author of a book titled, Compassion is Worth More: Using Your Civil Power to Create Change.
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