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Albania gay rights groups open first LGBTI shelter in Balkan region

Albania gay rights groups open first LGBTI shelter in Balkan region

TIRANA, Albania — A new residential shelter for LGBTI people who are homeless, suffer domestic violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, or live in an unsafe environment, opened on Thursday in Tirana, Albania.

Tirana, Albania
Tirana, Albania

Streha, “the Shelter” in Albanian, is a project founded by two Albanian gay rights organizations, Alenaca LGBT and ProLGBT, and will offer temporary (up to six months) housing and services to its users, including life skills training, vocational training opportunities and psycho-social support.

It is the first shelter of its kind for LGBTI individuals in the Balkan region and one of the first in Eastern Europe.

Kiristi Pinderi, Executive Director of PRO LGBT and Xheni Karaj, Director of Aleanca LGBT led Streha’s inauguration. Supporters also attended it, including the Albanian Minister of Social Welfare and Youth, Erion Veliaj, the British Ambassador, Nicholas Cannon OBE; Deputy chief of the US Embassy Henry V. Jardine; Program Director at USAID Albania, Clare Masson and other dignitaries.

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Pinderi told LGBTQ Nation that street violence against LGBTI people and “within [the] family environment, schools and other spaces” makes Streha a necessary service.

Karaj added that now LGBTI people have “a new solution for whenever they feel in risk.”

Last year, Albania amended its criminal code and put hate crimes against sexual orientation and gender identity on par with an offense against gender, race, ethnicity, religious belief, disability and so on.

The Albanian government has also agreed to amend the country’s family code in order to introduce same sex cohabitation, with a vote expected shortly and pass without opposition.

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