WE Pride

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.