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    SF LGBT Center Is Expanding a Number of Programs to Meet Growing Needs

    By Rebecca Rolfe–

    This is one of my favorite times of the year at the SF LGBT Center—when we mark the anniversary of opening our doors to the community with our annual Soirée. Together, we will celebrate our 17th anniversary on Saturday, April 13, at Terra Gallery. I hope you will join us to celebrate our amazingly diverse and vibrant LGBTQ community with a fabulous celebration including food, entertainment, open bar and dancing!

    Soirée raises funds to expand our programs and services, and fuels our community’s resilience in the face of adversity.

    LGBTQ rights—along with the rights of immigrants, women and people of color—have been under constant attack from the Trump administration. Most recently, this administration has nominated and promoted an anti-LGBTQ Supreme Court justice, banned transgender people from serving in the military, and tried to write transgender people out of existence.

    This administration and the people who support it have made it clear that LGBTQ people are not safe, respected or valued. In San Francisco, the most vulnerable among us are deeply impacted by these threats and by the affordability crisis facing the Bay Area.

    The statistics are staggering. In our city alone, approximately 30% of all homeless people and close to 50% of all homeless youth are members of our LGBTQ community. 70% of transgender people in San Francisco are unemployed and 90% of transgender people have experienced workplace discrimination. At the Center, we find these statistics unacceptable. Our call is to continue to innovative programs to address many emerging issues such as these.

    I am proud to share that this year the Center will be expanding a number of programs, including our Transgender Employment Services in the SOMA and Tenderloin neighborhoods, helping to reduce the barriers that many face in finding work. We are expanding our youth services to provide on-site mental health services for LGBTQ youth, many of whom are homeless or are in unstable housing. We will also be launching the city’s first youth Host Home program, which will match homeless youth with individuals and families who will donate a room in their home. This is all in addition to our current work.

    Each year, we assist close to 3,000 LGBTQ people through our first-in-the-nation Economic Development program, helping community members to find employment, build their financial assets and link to affordable housing options. The program also helps to build and sustain small businesses in the community.

    The Center’s Information and Referral program fulfills over 2,400 requests for linkages to trusted programs addressing a breadth of issues from emergency housing and food assistance to medical care and legal services. Our Youth Services provide 300 youth, many of whom are homeless or are in unstable housing, with a safe drop-in space to get off the streets, obtain warm nourishing meals, and receive crisis support.

     

    Our Arts and Culture programs help our community to find and lift our voices. They provide artists with free space to show their works, which pose critical questions about community and movement towards justice.

    Demand for our services is growing. Building a sense of greater connection among community members has never been more important.

    I am inspired to work with such a phenomenal group of volunteers, staff, and partners to expand our work. Their creativity and dedication give me hope that things can—and will—get better. I hope that you will join us for Soirée on April 13 to celebrate our incredible work and the path ahead. 

    Rebecca Rolfe is the Executive Director of the SF LGBT Center. To participate in programs, volunteer, donate, or to purchase tickets to Soirée on April 13, visit http://www.sfcenter.org/

     


    The SF LGBT Center Saved My Life

     By Jamie Wiles–

    Growing up in Michigan, I knew I was different, but nowhere around me did I see choices for someone like me to live an authentic life. Being transgender—in my town, in my family and within my circle of friends—was not an option. I was very unhappy, and soon found myself in a cycle of drug addiction and crime.
     
    At 16, I was kicked out of my house and started living on the streets. When I was 21, I left for San Francisco so that I could live my life as a woman. One day, while wandering in the city, I looked up and saw the SF LGBT Center sign. I walked in that day and kept walking in every day—for the next few years.

    The Center was the lifeline I needed.

    I began attending the Center’s youth drop-in space where I relaxed, regrouped and took a break from the stress of being homeless. I ate hot meals at Tuesday night meal nights and used the computers in the Cyber Center to look for work. The Center’s Youth Services staff connected me to healthcare resources that helped me to get sober. They pointed me towards housing resources that got me off the street. They hosted a job fair that I attended where I met my current employer. 

    Youth that participate in the Center’s Youth Services can access mental health services and trauma resources, as well as much-needed hot meals. 1,500 youth in San Francisco are homeless, and 49% of them identify as LGBTQ. The Center currently works with 300 youth, providing them with services and support. 

    Transgender people for years have been facing discrimination and injustice, which is why the SF LGBT Center, with its programs and services supporting trans youth and trans adults, is so important. The Center was there for me through my time of need. 

    Today, I really like the person I’ve grown into. I never thought this would be possible. I live in sober housing, attend addiction counseling and am a manager at my job. As a manager, I am a role model for the young people I work with. When I tell them my story, they can look at me and see someone who has overcome obstacles and followed their dreams. In the next few years, I have many things to look forward to, including moving to my own apartment and having gender confirmation surgery. My journey to myself was not an easy one, but I am here, I am happy and I am a productive member of the community. 

    With the incredible support of hundreds of community members, the Center is building a more equitable world for all LGBTQ people and our allies.

    With the support of our community, the Center can continue to transform future generations. Opportunities to get involved with the Center include volunteering and donating to meet a growing demand for services that are vital to our community. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we take care of each other.