For the first time in decades, Louisville’s LGBTQ+ community is getting a dedicated resource center in 2022.
The Louisville Pride Foundation will run the center. Director Mike Slaton said the goal is to serve as a safe space for LGBTQ+ residents and allies. It’ll also provide administrative support and networking opportunities for small businesses — and help people access resources, other organizations and services.
“We need to connect people who are disconnected with systems that are able to help them and to make sure that those systems are doing it in an affirming way,” Slaton said. “The ideal situation would be that somebody comes in for movie night, game, night, book club… And then while they’re here, they say, ‘Oh, if I come back tomorrow, I can get my flu shot, I can talk to a mental health counselor, I can get financial counseling. I can pick up some groceries.’”
The foundation will partner with the regional hunger relief nonprofit, Dare to Care, to operate a food pantry out of the space.
Slaton said the group also aims for the center to be a hub for LGBTQ-owned small businesses and community organizations.
“People can have meetings where they can network where we can provide administrative services…organizations can get their mail here,” Slaton said.
In November, the foundation secured a location in Old Louisville. Slaton said geographic and physical accessibility was a top priority in the search for a space.
“Everything’s [Americans with Disabilities Act] accessible. We’re on the second and third floors, but there’s an elevator. We have parking, and we’re on the bus line,” Slaton said. “The space meets all the criteria that the community has identified as being important, and it only needs a little bit of work before it will be ready.”
The center is in the same building as Asia Institute – Crane House, an organization that aims to celebrate and raise awareness about Asian culture through educational programs and the arts. In a press release, AICH’s Director Joel Buno said the shared space is a good foundation for partnership.
“We look forward to sharing networks and resources for the greater good for both of our underrepresented communities,” Buno said. “We have had joint success with our recent Covid-19 Vaccine Drives and hope to plan many more collaborative ventures.”
The organizations have already started working together to create an Asian American and Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ group with help from the Prism Foundation, a national organization that funds groups and projects that empower the AAPI LGBTQ+ community.
Slaton said opening the center to the public will depend on the state of COVID-19, finalizing community partnerships and getting the space set up.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations over the last two years that ended with ‘Okay, that sounds great. We’d love to partner, let us know when you have a facility.’ So now that we have the facility, we’re reaching back out and getting into the nuts and bolts of those agreements,” Slaton said. “We anticipate a phased opening, with limited activity starting very soon.”
He added that the goal is to have the center fully operational by June.
Slaton said the Louisville Pride Foundation is also partnering with Sweet Evening Breeze, a local nonprofit that aims to provide shelter and resources for LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homeless at a second community center.
“We see our two organizations as partners offering a complimentary set of services, programs, and events for the community,” Slaton said.
Glenn Martin is Sweet Evening Breeze’s executive director. In a press release, he said the shelter will be located in the Highlands and will serve residents aged 18-24 and offer them housing and wraparound services, including mental health counseling, career coaching and educational programs.
“We discussed the idea of finding a building we both could share, but ultimately we found great locations that met our different needs. For our clients in particular, having a separate location makes it easier to respect their confidentiality and privacy,” Martin said.
He said the organization is still getting the space ready for full operation. Until then, Martin said it will be open in a limited capacity for select events and programs.