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'We need these safe spaces': Two facilities opening to serve Louisville LGBTQ+ community

An LGBTQ+ Community Center and a resource center for Louisville's homeless LGBTQ+ youth are scheduled to open in early 2022.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Two nonprofits in Louisville have announced plans to open new facilities to serve the LGBTQ+ community in early 2022.

The Louisville Pride Foundation is opening an LGBTQ+ Community Center in Old Louisville. It's the first LGBTQ+ community center in Louisville since CommTEN Center operated in the 1980's.

Mike Slaton, executive director of the Louisville Pride Foundation, said they anticipate a phased opening, with "limited activity starting very soon, and full operations sometime next year."

The Center's initial focus will be three-fold: providing a safe space for LGBTQ+ people and their allies to gather, providing space and support for existing LGBTQ+ organizations, and closing the service gap by connecting LGBTQ people to existing resource providers.

On a tour of the building Friday, Louisville Youth Group's Em Joy said it's a resource that has been sorely missed in the city. 

"We need these safe spaces, we need these identity-centered spaces to provide support," they said. 

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Advocate Alexander Griggs anticipates the Center will be welcomed by people he works with as a centralized space for resources and help. 

"When all you see around you is cis-het-normative, having a space where you can kind of come and breathe," Griggs said.

Another nonprofit, Sweet Evening Breeze, has also found a home in Louisville at the Highlands Professional Plaza Building (801 Barret Avenue). The organization works to support and shelter LGBTQ+ youth 18-24 years of age who are experiencing homelessness. 

The space was once a dental office, which Executive Director Glenn Martin said leaves a lot of room for creativity as they work to make the space their own. 

"I think this is going to be one of those unique spaces for just that," Martin said of providing resources for young adults who are LGBTQ+ and experiencing homelessness, adding there are few resources specifically for them. 

"We hope for it to be much more than drop-in, we hope for our clients to spend time here and look for resources," he said. 

Like the Community Center, Sweet Evening Breeze will have a phased opening, offering limited services at first and gradually increasing to full operations. 

Services that will be provided include emotional counseling, career and educational coaching, and other programs that go beyond the expectations of a shelter -- in providing housing, hope and healing.

Joy said homelessness disproportionately impacts youth who are LGBTQ+, saying many end up leaving unhealthy home environments. 

"They end up on the streets they end up couch surfing or living out of cars if they have access to a vehicle, finding a place to live and stay," they said. 

Aside from resources, people we spoke to said affirmation is key. 

"That is echoed by almost everyone I come in contact with is they need community and don't know where to find it," JR Campbell, chair of Louisville Trans Men, said.

Going forward, Griggs said resources for LGBTQ+ people need to aim for more intersectionality, something he's hopeful for from The Center. 

“People of color that are queer and trans often don’t fit in in either space," he said. "In making sure vulnerable people and organizations that do exist in Louisville have access and are able to really come into this space and thrive, I think that would be beneficial to the community.

Slaton said The Center will be able to partner with other groups and organizations, including Sweet Evening Breeze.

"We see our two organizations as partners offering a complimentary set of services, programs and events for the community," Slaton said. "We'll be working together closely, and we think the entire community will benefit from having these two facilities open."

The Center, which does not have a permanent name yet, will share a space with the Asia Institute - Crane House, giving opportunities for partnership in the future. 

It will be located at 1244 South Third Street on the second and third floor.

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