Gay Community Endowment Fund grantees discuss housing, mental health and more
In March 2023, representatives from nonprofit organizations that have received grants from the Gay Community Endowment Fund gathered to discuss opportunities for collaboration, as well as how the fund can further support each organization's goals. GCEF's current funding priorities include creating safer environments for LGBTQ+ youth, combating phobias of the LGBTQ+ community, and supporting mental health and suicide prevention programs.
The housing crisis
CANAPI is among a number of organizations working to not only provide LGBTQ+ youth with housing, but with all the items that make a place a home. Rebecca Callahan, executive director of CANAPI, explained that while the federal government helped with housing during the worst parts of the pandemic, young people would often find themselves in an apartment without towels, pots and pans, and more. "What makes your house feel like a home? You need a trash can, you need a bed and sheets. We want people to stay and feel safe, but a lot of federal grants don't pay for towels and washcloths and food," said Callahan.
She also informed the group about a collaboration between CANAPI and the Akron AIDS Collaborative on rapid rehousing for young people who need short-term rental assistance. Despite the collaboration, spaces in short-term shelters fill up fast. Both CANAPI and the Akron AIDS Collaborative have waitlists for services, which further illustrates the importance of funding.
OutSupport is a completely volunteer-run organization that recently received an impact grant to help foster acceptance toward the LGBTQ+ community in Medina County. Two members of the organization shared how they will use the grant to create a billboard campaign in June 2023. "It's really important for people to know that they are seen and heard in our county," explained one volunteer. OutSupport is also combating homophobia in the classroom by working with gay-straight alliances in local schools, as well as through partnerships with libraries.
Rebecca Callahan also spoke about the Akron Pride Festival. The festival has grown from 6,000 people in its first year to more than 30,000 at the 2022 festival. "A lot of you have booths there, which is wonderful. It means people see your services and see the support they have in the community. Besides it being a welcoming space, it also helps connect the community to all of you," said Callahan about the importance of nonprofits being visible at Pride.
Mental health services
Some organizations, such as the Battered Women's Shelter, told the group about their endeavors to better reach and support LGBTQ+ survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Battered Women's Shelter CEO Teresa Stafford emphasized the importance of educating their staff on the unique issues the LGBTQ+ community faces. "We want to ensure our staff have the capacity and the knowledge to actually do the work. So we are doing a lot of internal work because we don't want to cause more harm in the community by not doing our internal work at the same time," explained Stafford.
Several of the organizations, including the Akron AIDS Collaborative and the Battered Women's Shelter, discussed the importance of meeting clients where they are, but from different perspectives. The Akron AIDS Collaborative's Bayard Rustin LGBTQ+ Resource Center is in the process of moving to a larger facility. This new space will allow partner organizations to hold office hours within the building, enabling clients who lack affordable transportation to access services. The Battered Women's Shelter is one group that has already made trips to other organizations as part of its outreach to marginalized communities. This is the shelter's attempt to overcome another misconception they've been told about by LGBTQ+ clients: the name of the organization itself. "We're called the Battered Women's Shelter. That right there is another barrier," Stafford stated while explaining how the organization is looking outside of its own building to reach LGBTQ+ survivors.
By bringing a number of organizations with different focuses together, the Gay Community Endowment Fund is able to encourage new partnerships and identify more ways to serve Greater Akron's LGBTQ+ community. For more information about the organizations the Gay Community Endowment Fund has supported over the years, visit akroncf.org/GCEFgranthistory.