SMYRC, Portland’s Sexual & Gender Minority Youth Resource Center is officially integrating into New Avenues for Youth’s comprehensive programming for foster, at-risk, and homeless youth. The transition, initially beginning as a partnership between Q Center and New Avenues earlier this year when SMYRC moved to New Avenues’ Joyce N. Furman building downtown, builds upon organizational synergy and provides important stability to SMYRC.
SMYRC’s efforts to engage disconnected youth and New Avenues’ vision of every youth having a safe place to call home has created a partnership that now evolves into leveraging resources and coordinating outreach by integrating SMYRC’s staff and services. “It’s been imperative at Q Center to ensure ongoing stability and the best home possible for SMYRC” says interim board member LeAnn Locher. “We believe an LGBTQ youth program should be run by an organization that excels in youth programming, and New Avenues for Youth is a solid, proven and vital community asset to provide just this.”
During this transitional period, New Avenues’ priority is stabilizing SMYRC’s current range of services for LGBTQ youth, including a drop-in space and activities in downtown Portland, support for rural youth as part of Washington County Pride Project, and access to community counseling through a partnership with Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare. New Avenues will also be taking on Bridge 13, SMYRC’s long-standing technical assistance program that trains service providers, educators, and students on how to enhance the safety and accessibility of their services and spaces for LGBTQ individuals.
“LGBTQ youth are among the most vulnerable young people in our community,” says New Avenues for Youth’s Executive Director, Sean Suib. “Integrating SMYRC into New Avenues for Youth’s services will allow us to reach more youth and have a greater impact in preventing youth homelessness by creating better opportunities and outcomes for LGBTQ youth. While we’re aware the program has unmet needs, New Avenues for Youth is committed to providing a permanent home for SMYRC, and we hope the community will wrap around this new alignment of services and help us maximize this opportunity.”
SMYRC was created in 1998 by two youth, Tre Sangrey and Britta Houser. Since that time, SMYRC has found homes with Cascadia Behavioral HealthCare and then Q Center. The stability and focus of New Avenues for Youth is an ideal match for SMYRC, ensuring the important work and services continue and even grow. Stepping up to the plate in 2011 when the space for and future of SMYRC was up in the air, Q Center is grateful we were able to provide a home to SMYRC for the past two-and-a-half years.
Q Center is currently undergoing important stability and transition, and the move of SMYRC to New Avenues for Youth reflects the priorities heard of the community and hard work of the current Q Center staff, interim board of directors, and the commitment of New Avenues for Youth. SMYRC employees, including Micheal Wheatley, Elaina Medina, Nash Jones, Shane Penunuri and Seth Johnstone, are now employees of SMYRC at New Avenues for Youth and while we will miss them here at Q Center, we will be forever touched by their amazing work.
Between January and February 2015, more than 600 LGBTQ community members and allies participated in small-group community conversations, one-on-one discussions, all-community town hall meetings, and online and paper surveys. This community engagement process was intended to help Q Center’s leadership better understand our community’s experience with the center, needs, hopes and expectations for the future, and what the community in general is needing. Q Center is carefully reviewing this important information to help chart our future. A statement from Q:
“What we knew already was that Q Center has made mistakes in the past. Among them are missteps that further marginalized parts of our own community. HIV/AIDS survivors, trans women, People of Color and others have been led to feel unseen, unheard and unwanted. This doesn’t align with Q Center’s mission and values, and we all should have been more active in making Q Center safer.
The new leadership at Q Center today is very sorry for the mistakes that have been detrimental to these parts of our community. We are committed to making amends and doing better in the future. We have great hope that we can change the experiences and perception of Q Center for some of our most vulnerable LGBTQQIAAP family, and move forward together.
As we walk the talk, new policies and procedures have been adopted, specifically defining discrimination and oppression, how we prevent it and how we deal with it when it happens. There are also new bylaws being drafted to govern Q Center staff, volunteers and board members, and we are exploring movement towards a member-based organization. As we continue to expand the board and hire a new Executive Director in the coming weeks, you can expect to see a new Vision and Mission Statement for Q Center, as well. In the meantime, know that your voice is heard: we are listening. We hope to have an additional town hall and more information about Q Center’s future in April. Onward!”
Q Center Updates
Staff Transitions: Congratulations Stacey Rice! Steadfast Q Center staffer, Stacey Rice, is now Director of Operations & Programs. Stacey’s responsible for program coordination as well as oversight of volunteer-led administration. She’s the glue that holds Q Center together. Please be sure to say congratulations when you see her next. Thank you for all you do, Stacey.
Let’s bring Q-community to Q Center
Join in the movement of rallying for Q Center by becoming a monthly donor. Signing up for monthly giving is a snap and an easy way to provide critical, steady income to Q Center. Giving at any level, from $10 a month to $100 a month and beyond, makes a huge difference. As a monthly donor, you ensure that Q Center keep the doors open. Did you know over 200 individuals come to Q Center for gatherings, classes, support groups and information every week? Your support is more important than ever.