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An Message From Our CEO, Cara Dessert

July 6, 2020

Dear Center Community,

As The Center began our new fiscal year on July 1, I want to look back at all that we’ve accomplished this past year to better serve our LGBTQ community. We kicked off July 2019 with an expansion of our housing programs, growing from our Sunburst Youth Housing Project, to an entire continuum of housing services and homelessness prevention programs – Family Reunification, Host Homes, LGBT Safe S.T.A.Y. – an emergency overnight housing now open 7 nights a week, and permanent supportive housing programs to include housing for LGBTQ adults, couples, and families. Then, we took a deep dive into community feedback and board planning, developing our three-year Strategic Plan – the North Star for our Center – where every person is valued and welcomed. Over 2,000 community members, volunteers, staff, and a variety of other stakeholders shared their experiences, hopes, and frustrations to guide our Strategic Plan. The feedback included increasing engagement opportunities for the Black LGBTQ community to create a more welcoming Center for Black LGBTQ people. We held our first Town Hall for the Black Community, then along with Black community leaders, created our first Black LGBTQ Community Advisory Committee, as well as Brave Space, a Black peer-led discussion group for LGBTQ folks of the Black and African diaspora to bond, connect, and share in community. The Center has also grown and deepened our partnerships with local Black-led organizations, including The Gender Phluid Collective, San Diego Black LGBTQ Coalition, and Unity Fellowship Church.

We celebrated milestones with our invaluable Youth Services Centers which serve youth ages 10-24. The Hillcrest Youth Center (HYC) celebrated its 20 year anniversary, and our South Bay Youth Center (SBYC) celebrated its first anniversary.

The Center launched our second Border Project to serve LGBTQ immigrants and asylum seekers on the border, and worked with our partners to ensure that legal services, case management, and humanitarian relief were available to LGBTQ and HIV-positive asylum seekers who arrived at the San Diego/Tijuana border in the fall of 2019.

We grew our Civic Engagement programs with broad participation in the Primary election and the 2020 Census through a close partnership with the regional Census coalition, Count Me 2020, engaging our community to participate and use their voices for change.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit with a Stay-At-Home order, shifting how The Center serves our community. We doubled down to expand our in-person, vital services (food, housing, and HIV testing) and moved other services virtually. Due to the pandemic, we were forced to cancel Center signature events including Dining Out For Life San Diego, the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast, and Pachanga De Frida. To keep our life-saving services going, we launched an Emergency Fund. Now, more than three months later, our Emergency Services continue with an Emergency Referral and Resource phone line, Behavioral Health Services via Zoom Healthcare, Individual Program Meetings and Check-Ins via Zoom, Virtual Support & Discussion Groups, Critical Housing needs, HIV testing by appointment, and Food Resources. To date, over 1000 people have given a gift to our Emergency Fund to support this work.

We continued our advocacy to pass police reforms through the Coalition for Police Accountability and Transparency (CPAT). We celebrated with the Supreme Court of the United States’ landmark victory for all LGBTQ people, who now have broad employment protection in all 50 states under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; the win for DACA and our immigrant communities, and especially for the DREAMers who have been changing hearts and minds, telling their stories and unapologetic truths; and the 5-4 victory that struck down a law passed in the Louisiana Legislature that required any doctor offering abortion services to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.

The Center continues to be engaged in the fight for Black lives, reexamining our organization structures and expanding dialogue with the Black LGBTQ community. As a social service provider, we center our work through the lenses of trauma-informed care, and we hear the Black community say that we cannot provide critical services like counseling and support groups that serve victims of trauma, while also having armed uniformed law enforcement officers allowed in the building, which often re-traumatizes them. Recently, our Board recently voted unanimously for a policy change that armed uniformed law enforcement will no longer be allowed at Center facilities or events, unless for a true emergency. Law enforcement in plain clothes and without weapons are welcome at The Center for services and events. The Center will continue to strive to make a safe and welcoming space for all of our community.

What a year – a hard, rewarding, incredible, life-altering year. All of this work, each step forward, has been done together with our board, staff, donors, volunteers, and LGBTQ community. I look forward to continuing our good work for all our diverse and powerful San Diego LGBTQ community.

In community,

-Caroline (Cara) Dessert (Pronouns: She/Her/Hers)
Chief Executive Officer

To read our full enews from June 6, 2020, click here.

The Center provided more than 84,000 direct service visits to San Diego community members,  and through its events, activities and advocacy, touched the lives of thousands more.

The mission of The San Diego LGBT Community Center is to enhance and sustain the health and well-being of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary and HIV communities by providing activities, programs and services that create community; empower community members; provide essential resources; advocate for civil and human rights; and embrace, promote and support our cultural diversity.

  • Centre Street Location: 3909 Centre St, San Diego, CA 92103 
  • Sunburst Youth Housing Project: 1640 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101
  • Hillcrest Youth Center: 1807 Robinson Ave, Suite 106, San Diego, CA 92103
  • South Bay Youth Center: 1180 Third Ave, Suite C1, Chula Vista, CA 91911
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