By Matt Pizzuti, PQ Monthly
During a period of upheaval in Portland’s LGBTQ nonprofit community this spring, the program seeking to serve Portland’s most at-risk LGBTQ youth—the Sexual and Gender Minority Youth Resource Center, or SMYRC—was facing its own uncertain future and in need of a new home.
SMYRC was cut from Portland’s troubled Q Center and grafted onto the broader New Avenues for Youth, an established youth-focused nonprofit with a larger budget and dealing more specifically with at-risk youth and homelessness. Since then the program has branched and blossomed, and will soon be saying goodbye to the gardener who tended the transition as Program Coordinator Micheal Weakley prepares to move abroad.
“We officially joined New Avenues March 16—they were able to give wages that matched other nonprofit employers, as well as other incentives that are needed,” Weakley said. “They invested quite a lot of money into making the program grow. Being integrated into the New Avenues staff has been helpful.”
The change brought the program from its former location on Sandy Blvd. to Downtown Portland at 1220 SW Columbia St., where New Avenues is housed.
More recently, starting June 1 SMYRC won a major increase in funding through a grant from Multnomah County, enabling staff members to work full time and increasing the program staff to six so services can expand.
There’s now a program for young adults age 20-25 who’ve aged out of SMYRC’s youth-only programs but could still use the social support, as welly as monthly field trips. Meanwhile, SMYRC continues to run the locally-developed Bridge 13 Training teaching health care workers or local organizations and businesses how to deal sensitively with trans and LGBTQ youth.
Weakley, who has been in nonprofits 15 years and arrived in Portland from Arizona about a year ago, will be leaving the organization, the industry—and the country—after his last day with SMYRC on August 3.
His next stop will be Mexico City, followed by an extensive trip through Europe and then back to Mexico. “I’m a nomad by heart,” Weakley said, “I’ll probably spend the rest of my life traveling and teaching and I’ve got no particular desire to nest.”
“I took on the responsibility to get SMYRC to the next level when I got hired by the Q Center, about a five-month commitment, and I’m confident in the work I’ve done,” he said. “I’m ready to choose a different lifestyle, and give other younger, cooler people the opportunity to take my job.”