On July 1, the Persad Center in Lawrenceville lost funding for its LGBTQ youth programs, spelling an uncertain future for the region’s LGBTQ young people. The program at Persad, which provides resources and services for LGBTQ people, gave a space for youth in the community to congregate in an open and accepting atmosphere. With it gone, and future funding still up in the air, some worried a vital community resource might deteriorate.
But, thanks to the help of a few other local groups, a new LGBTQ youth center should be created later this month in its place.
Proud Haven, an organization focused on serving the city’s LGBTQ homeless population, is providing a space at its North Side location, and local groups TransYOUniting and Trans Pride Pittsburgh are collaborating on the effort.
Lyndsey Sickler, who ran the youth programs at Persad, will be heading up the new effort at Proud Haven. They said a soft launch for the facility, called Pittsburgh YOUth Haven, is scheduled for July 14, and it comes at a necessary time.
“There really are not a lot of places where LGBTAQIA youth can be, that are safe and supportive,” said Sickler. “When we lost the funding at Persad, we were wondering what to do.”
Sickler co-founded Trans Pride Pittsburgh 10 years ago, and has been involved with Proud Haven’s board since 2013. They said the space at Proud Haven isn’t massive, but it should serve the community well, since the youth space at Persad used to attract between 3-10 LGBTQ youth a day, and they expect to see a similar volume at the space in Proud Haven.
The new space is meant for LGBTQ youth 21 and under, and Sickler said that people should come for support, to play board games, and for networking opportunities. Sickler added that youth can also get help with securing a bus pass, job hunting, and resume building, as well as helping fill out college applications or working to receive a GED.
“Getting folks what they need as they need it,” said Sickler. “It's important in this work that people are met where they are.”
Since the space will be opening during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sickler said social distancing will still be adhered to and masks will be worn by everyone. A benefit of the new youth space is its location. Sickler said the Deutschtown location is more central than the former Persad location in Lawrenceville.
Sickler is excited about the space’s potential and the collaboration between so many great, local LGBTQ organizations. They thanked Dena Stanley of TransYOUniting and Debbie Scotto of Proud Haven for being “fantastic leaders.”
The center currently does not have any dedicated funding, but Sickler said the groups are soliciting funds. They also said people can donate to Proud Haven or TransYOUniting and mention “Pittsburgh YOUth Haven.”
A lot of progress has been made over the years in the fight for LGBTQ equality, but Sickler recognizes that there is still work to be done, especially concerning LGBTQ youth.
“Some of our kids have families that are supportive, and some of them have families that don’t know who they are,” said Sickler. “These spaces are vital.”
Pittsburgh YOUth Haven will be located at 517 E. Ohio Street in the North Side, and will be open from 1-8 p.m.