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Musician creates LGBTQ+ safe haven to fill gap she saw in mental health services

When Maree McRae's transgender daughter was suffering from a mental health crisis, there was nowhere for her to go. So McRae created a place.

LITTLETON, Colo. — When country musician Maree McRae had to watch the person she loves the most struggle with mental illness, her mission changed to creating a space that helps people like her daughter.

Newspaper clippings and posters of shows dot the basement walls of McRae's Littleton home. 

She's a professional singer and songwriter, but these days the message in her lyrics is consistent. 

"Tell me there’s a reason for this suffering I'm seeing," McRae sings while playing her keyboard.

She wrote 'Reason' in the parking lot of an emergency room where her transgender daughter was being held after going through a mental health crisis. 

However, after five days McRae said hospital staff told her there were no mental health beds open, and no place for her daughter to go. 

"From that point, I just knew that my calling was to use my music to speak," said McRae, who became a music ambassador for mental health. 

But she didn't stop there. 

“If we aren’t here to make it better and easier for another, then what are we here for?" McRae asked. 

Last year, McRae bought a home that she initially planned on flipping. But as she walked through the halls, McRae realized she could create the safe space to heal that her daughter didn't have. 

“So this is Heart Mind Haven," McRae said walking into the home. "This is a respite. It’s a healing, recovery and wellness center." 

Heart Mind Haven hopes to be the place where people can go after a crisis and get back on their feet. The home has space for eight residents, and they currently have bed scholarships for those who are at the poverty level, homeless or unemployed because of mental health or substance use disorders. 

RELATED: Resources for Colorado's LGBTQ+ community, their families and allies

In the last six months, McRae said Heart Mind Haven has housed around 30 individuals. 

“A lot of our transgender residents are either brand new in transition, or have been in for a while but have just had really really bad experiences, which unfortunately exists for a lot of us out there," said Camryn Byrne, the director of Transgender and Recovery Services. 

Byrne is a certified addiction specialist who also helps to coordinate substance abuse services for residents outside the home.

She believes this home is part of building a continuum of care for a community that lives so much of their lives in crisis. 

“Transgender folks generally don’t go and find their own therapists," said Byrne. "They don’t do that because we don’t think we’re going to find anybody that understands us, knows us, to where we feel comfortable in explaining to them who we are." 

Currently, Heart Mind Haven is funded through the Centura Health Equity Grant and a grant from Signal Behavioral Health

Music will always be a way for McRae to share what she's seen, but she said she was able to find her own reason and a new mission. 

"I think we have a choice to be a messenger from where we've come from," said McRae. "And how do you walk through a war?  And how do you feel those bullets? And how do you see people dying from those bullets and do anything different with your life?" 

RELATED: Clela Rorex, who issued nation's first same-sex marriage license, dies at 78

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