Celeste Scott, Pittsburgh housing justice attorney, dies at 46

A memorial for the late housing advocate Celeste Scott will be held at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA this weekend. Scott died last week at the age of 46.

Her advocacy helped create a trust fund for affordable housing in the city of Pittsburgh, as well as transitional housing for transgender women.

A group calling itself Scott’s “Legacy Circle” will host the memorial from 2-6 p.m. Sunday. They also created a GoFundMe to raise money for funeral expenses and to help support his family.

On Tuesday, Lawrenceville United, an organization Scott worked with frequently, said it would donate $1,000 to the fundraiser and encouraged neighbors to do the same.

The group’s name embodies how those who continue to rely on Scott’s housing justice efforts are also part of his legacy.

“The beautiful thing is that she left so much manpower behind,” said Brittani Murray, a close friend of Scott’s and another organizer. “So many working and loving hearts behind it.”

Scott created tangible resources for his community

As a community organizer, Scott has helped Pittsburgh residents, especially black transgender women, find housing. But Murray said Scott’s work only started there.

“She didn’t just want to put people at home,” Murray said. “She was about to make their lives whole and basically remove all barriers to their advancement.”

This included helping them find food, furniture, jobs and other services in the process.

Scott regularly spoke at community and government meetings, where she not only briefed leaders on housing conditions in Pittsburgh, but also deepened her understanding of the city’s housing systems so that information could be shared.

“Celeste didn’t keep the information,” Murray said. “Celeste was here regularly to educate people. Celeste would tell you at the bus stop.

Scott spent several years as an affordable housing organizer at Pittsburgh United. She called for a city with ‘tangible equity’ at all levels — for black residents, people with disabilities and other marginalized members of the community.

Murray said Scott wanted to give black communities the knowledge to navigate the city’s housing landscape, so that one day his help would no longer be needed.

“Celeste would often say, ‘I try to put myself out of business, the business of what I do and how I walk around here and try to stand up for people. I want to go bankrupt. I want everyone to be in a house,” Murray said.

His advocacy led to the creation of the city of Housing Opportunity Fundwhich commits $10 million annually to affordable housing projects and accessibility initiatives.

Funding from the program has been used to provide short-term rental assistance to people at risk of homelessness, assistance for first-time homebuyers and housing repairs for seniors in the predominantly black region. Hill District.

Addressing 90.5 WESA in 2019Scott called victory allowances for people struggling to afford housing.

According to Lawrenceville United, Scott was also a key figure in the campaign for inclusive zoning in the neighborhood. She had individual interviews on the issue with elected officials and convened partners across the city.

“She was a fierce champion for racial justice, housing justice and gay liberation,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey. social media. “The city of Pittsburgh is a better place thanks to Celeste. May his memory be a blessing, now and always.

Katie Blackley

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90.5 WESA

Two floats included in the People’s Pride Parade in 2020.

Defense of intersectional advocacy

Scott has also worked to secure emergency housing for transgender women in Pittsburgh. She was previously the Housing Chair of SisTers PGH, a nonprofit serving trans and non-binary people.

SisTers executive director Ciora Thomas said Scott was instrumental in securing the organization’s first home, which serves as a transitional shelter for trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people.

“One thing we all know about Celeste is that her intention has always been intersectional to include our black trans communities,” Thomas said, “and she was fierce about it.”

“She’s the one who set it all up for us girls,” she continued.

Thomas and Murray say Scott was forthright in ensuring the spaces she ran were accessible to everyone, including members of the disability community.

She frequently spoke out against physical barriers to accessible housing and inclusion, and lived by her personal brand, “Fat, Femme and Fly”.

“She changed the way we executed our actions, how we did inclusiveness in space, in our events and in our actions,” Murray explained. “We were very intentional about it because she demanded that intentionality, frankly, but she also taught us a lot about it. About what it really meant to show up for each other in space and community in this way.

This emphasis on inclusion also extended to the patience and joy with which Scott treated young black people.

As of 2019 The pride of the people fest, Scott led a group of teenagers in dancing to “Swag Surfin'” by Fast Life Yungstaz, a song that became rooted in black culture in the United States over the past two decades.

“They were so excited to be able to participate in something that was so dark and so rich and so dope and so flexible and so swaggy,” Murray said. “And she was smiling and rocking and surfing every step of the way. The look on his face was just delighted.

Scott always wanted black kids to feel like they belonged, Murray added. “As if they had a place and a space to stand.”

A prosperous future for black women

For Murray and Thomas, Scott was a matriarch. She welcomed other black women’s advocates into the fold, sharing information and reminding her peers of the importance of self-care.

But while she was endlessly supportive of them and other activists, in addition to her work helping city initiatives, they say she didn’t always receive the same support.

Scott has helped others facing housing insecurity find stable housing while dealing with many of the same issues.

“She couldn’t fulfill the dream of owning the home she wanted, but believed so much in making sure we were all taken care of,” Thomas said.

Thomas also said that Scott was not paid enough for his contributions to the community.

Allegheny County police found an unconscious Scott at her home in Homestead early in the morning of November 2. The medical examiner’s office is investigating the cause of his death. He had not published any conclusions as of November 9.

Murray and Thomas said her passing highlights the need for better resources for black women serving as community leaders. This includes a fair wage.

“Our leaders, our matriarchs also need support and also need fairness so they can be sustainable while doing this work,” Thomas said.

Upholding Scott’s legacy, adds Thomas, means creating a future where black women in Pittsburgh can thrive.

About Bradley J. Bridges

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