The weather outside is pretty miserable today: it’s windy and raining. Now inside and drying off at the Center, I’m taking a few minutes to reflect. I sit on the Mayor’s Commission for LGBTQ Runaway and Homeless Youth as the Executive Director of the Center. Last week, we held a public hearing, and I listened to countless LGBT young people speak about being unable to find employment, adequate housing or even enough food. The stories broke my heart. It felt absurd to leave the hearing and go home to my apartment knowing that these youth will divide their time between Starbucks, McDonalds, the Apple store and anywhere else that they can sit and stay warm for a few hours.
It also makes me grateful to run the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. We’re open 365 days a year, most days between 10am-10pm, and I am proud to say we are able to provide a destination for these young people. Here at the Center, I’ve asked the entire staff to think about what the Center is, and what I’ve heard echoed over and over is “the Center is a safe space.”
Our very popular Youth Enrichment Services (YES) program offers over 25 groups a week designed to prepare young people to cope with emotional, social and economic stress. On a daily basis, an average of 52 young people attend Job & Scholarship Hour, Homework Help, and Come In/Step Out support group, as well as paid internships. We know that the need is great, but the Center is working hard to provide a safety net. Our programs are always growing, and I’m continuously in awe when I meet with the YES program and hear what they’re planning next. We’re not alone in this city, and we want our young people to know that. I’m grateful for our colleague organizations – Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST), Ali Forney Center, Hetrick-Martin, GLSEN, to name a few — who are also committed to helping young LGBTQ people.
Watch this video of one of our young community members who recently spoke at a CBST LGBT Youth event