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Cuts in LGBT Services No Cause For Pride
by TJ Johnston for Street Sheet (streetsheet AT cohsf DOT org)
Friday Jul 2nd, 2010 12:24 PM
Programs serving San francisco's LGBT youth and seniors are in danger of losing city funding
While San Francisco parties during its 40th Pride Celebration and Parade, low-income members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are fighting for to put food on the table.

The Department of Public Health is prepared to cut over $6 million in homeless services in next year's budget, and among them are programs to feed and temporarily house young LGBT people and to provide support to LGBT seniors. While the reductions to the meal program at the LGBT Community Center, the Ark of Refuge and the family support caregivers program at New Leaf Services For Our Community amount to just over $1 million, lifelines for its clients will be severed.

At a rally in front of City Hall on June 21, a small group of young LGBTs joined protesters against cutting services. They wore T-shirts reading "Feed Me," a plea to restore $109,000 to the LGBT Center's weekly meal night. Every Tuesday, meal night serves as a one-stop center for youth up to age 24.

In addition to dinner, up to 40 people access clothing and information on housing, counseling services and HIV testing. Information on internships is also provided.

"Meal night is the one event people come to to exchange information," Beck, the center's youth program coordinator, said in a phone interview. "It is a place where they come together and deal with their issues."

Mia, a 19-year-old from Texas who identifies herself as a transwoman, found a volunteer position at meal night. She can't imagine how she would find another opportunity if meal night were eliminated.

"It would be a huge embarrassment to have the city's LGBT community not have access to any services," she said. "I wouldn't be able to see the people I come in contact with."

Programs serving low-income LGBT seniors are also at risk, particularly the family support caregiver program at New Leaf. The organization stands to lose $500,000, including the $62,707 to run the program.

Director Thom Lynch said their volunteers visit clients' homes to stave feelings of isolation.

"We keep them company and build a personal relationship so that they don't have any emergency medical needs or mental health needs," Lynch said. New Leaf is already looking to private donors and foundations for funding, while considering axing other programs and staff.

"It would be very difficult to make up (the shortfall) in city cuts," he said.