David Lenz

House Youth Centre teams with Windsor-Essex Pride Fest on new program

 

By Jonathan Martin

 

The House Youth Centre has entered into a new partnership with Windsor-Essex Pride Fest.

The two non-profit organizations have announced plans to launch a new program for local LGBTQ+ youth.

The program, named LGBTQ Connect, will run out of the House on the second and fourth Thursday of each month.  Program co-creator Jolene Perron said it will use a peer-support structure, similar to the one the House employs for its other programming.

“(LGBTQ Connect) is going to be about positive affirmation and camaraderie, which is super important for the LGBTQ+ community,” Perron said.  “We don’t have a whole lot of organizations where you can go and talk about what’s on your mind or you can feel that sense of community in Amherstburg.”

House of Shalom Youth Centre and Windsor-Essex Pride Fest members sit together on the House’s back staircase. The two charities have joined forces to support local LGBTQ+ youth by starting a new program.

Windsor-Essex Pride Fest (WE Pride) president David Lenz said the lack of resources for LGBTQ persons in the county has been a major concern for his organization.  In January, WE Pride held a community consultation with Amherstburg Community Services, where Lenz and his colleagues listened to the concerns of county-based sexual minorities.  The general consensus of the evening was that LGBTQ+ persons living outside of the City of Windsor feel a sense of social isolation and lack opportunities for community-building.

LGBTQ Connect, Lenz hopes, will help address that issue.

“Why reinvent the wheel when you’ve got great people in the community already?” he said.  “We’ve partnered with the House to reach a demographic that we heard through online polls feels under-served.”

LGBTQ Connect is for youth aged 13-20, which expands upon the 14-18 age-range the House Youth Centre’s other programs serve.

Sam Major Bebbington stands in front of his partner, Jolene Perron. Major Bebbington is co-leading the LGBTQ Connect program, which the House Youth Centre and Windsor-Essex Pride Fest are collaborating on.

House Youth Centre activities coordinator Ashley Marchand said the program is “essential” for youth in Amherstburg.  She said the number of the House’s members who identify as LGBTQ+ have steadily increased over the past few years.  As the number of marginalized youth increases, Marchand believes their need for support does, too.

“One fifth of our youth identify as being a part of the LGBTQ+ community,” she said.  “The more we looked into programs that are being offered to them, the less we found unless they were able to drive to Windsor, which is often not a possibility for youths in this age bracket.”

The program is being funded by part of a $450 thousand trillium grant WE Pride received in support of its programming.

They money is going towards expanding WE Pride’s programming in multiple communities, Lenz said.  He added that his organization’s partnership with the House Youth Centre won’t be its last foray into Amherstburg.  He said that if local LGBTQ+ persons or allies have ideas for programming, they are welcome to contact WE Pride through their website at www.wepridefest.com.

The House Youth Centre can be reached through its website at www.houseofshalom.ca or by calling 519-736-6811. The House is located at 247 Brock St., at the corner of Brock St. and Gore St.

Pride Fest holds community consultation in Amherstburg

By Jonathan Martin

 

Windsor-Essex Pride Fest is putting new emphasis on the county.

Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) held a consultation with the Windsor-based organization last Wednesday to help it build programming for the town’s LGBTQ2S+ community.

Local members of the LGBTQ2S+ community met with Pride Fest president David Lenz, Pride Fest project coordinator Karen Kahelin and ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo. Together, the group discussed what they believe Amherstburg needs to do in order to improve life for its minorities.

Two such community members, Jmar Eduarte and Kenny Goggin, are set to be married in March of 2019. Goggin was raised in Amherstburg, but spent some time abroad after high school. He said it wasn’t until he landed in Dubai, where he met Eduarte, that he fully embraced his sexuality. Despite coming to accept himself and learning to love another, he said he didn’t believe Amherstburg was ready to do the same. After attending Wednesday’s meeting, he thinks his mind has changed.

Jmar Eduarte (right) listens to his fiancée, Kenny Goggin, as he shares his experiences as a gay man living in Amherstburg at Amherstburg Community Services last Wednesday. Pride Fest Windsor-Essex held a community consultation at ACS to assess the needs of Amherstburg’s LBGTQ2S+ community.

“I would have never expected to see this in Amherstburg growing up,” he said. “Amherstburg is a very LGBTQ-friendly town, whether it knows it or not. The issues I thought I’d have living my life do not exist. They aren’t there.”

Goggin’s optimism was tempered by a recurring theme of fragmentation within the community, though. He echoed the sentiment of another local who attended the consultation, saying that he didn’t feel people on the LGBTQ2S+ spectrum were visible enough or received enough acknowledgement by administration.

“I would have really liked to see a member of council here tonight,” he said.

Pride Fest president David Lenz said an invitation to Wednesday’s consultation was extended to town hall. No representatives were present.

“We’re trying to assess the needs of each community,” Lenz said. “Using the feedback we receive at these consultations, which will be ongoing, we’ll develop programs tailored to each community and put them on.”

Lenz said Pride Fest has already met with members of the town of Essex, has reached out to Leamington and plans to hold a meeting in Lakeshore. The outreach efforts are being funded by a Trillium grant that was handed out in March of 2017. The money will flow for three years, at which point Lenz said he hopes to apply for additional funding to keep the outreach efforts going.

Karen Kahelin (right) listens to Pride Fest Windsor-Essex president David Lenz speak at Amherstburg Community Services.

ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo said Pride Fest’s outreach has already made an impact on her. She said Pride Fest asked if ACS would be willing to lend them its facilities, which she agreed to. She said she hopes it’s the first of many partnerships.

“Tonight, two organizations have come together in the hopes of addressing the needs of our community,” she said. “There are services which we already provide which perhaps could be extended to members of the LGBTQ community, such as transportation to Windsor Pride events, which is a need that was brought up a few times tonight.”

Goggin agreed with DiBartolomeo. He said the meeting itself was a positive change.

“Amherstburg is a great place to grow up and live your life,” he said. “Meetings like this will make that more evident and the message will get out there eventually.”