The Center’s Programs & Milestones
In 1971 our world was a very different place. Being “out” simply wasn’t an option for many. Just being a member
of the LGBTQ community could be dangerous, and there was no place to turn for help.
We are proud of the history of The Center’s service. Originally just an answering machine in a borrowed closet that served as a lifeline for those looking for compassionate connection, it is now one of the largest and most vibrant LGBTQ Community Centers in the nation, providing our community with more than 84,600 direct service visits each year.
The initial 1971-1972 Planning Committee for what would become The Center included Patricia Byers, Thom Carey, Patricia Cluchey, Peggy Heathers, Jess Jessop, Clint Johnson, Bernie Michels, George Murphy, Jerry Peterson, Gary Rees, John Senter, Jerry White, John Eberly, Gary Gulley and Cynthia Lawrence. The Chair of the Planning Committee was Bernie Michels
Diagnosis of the first case of HIV disease in San Diego
The Behavioral Health Services RVTIP program received credentialing, and became one of the first same-sex domestic violence programs in the nation
The Hillcrest Youth Center opened its doors and became a critical resource for LGBTQ youth in San Diego
The Public Policy department was established after the No on Prop. 22 campaign
AIDS Walk & Run San Diego returned to The Center as a Center program
The Women’s Resource Center was established, providing LBT women and their allies access to important health
and social resources and referrals
The Community Leadership Council was established, bringing together more than 40 LGBTQ and allied community organizations each month to address the needs of the community
The Center Advocacy Project was established, a nonpartisan 501(c)4, whose mission is to secure equal civil and human rights for the LGBTQ and allied communities through public education and issue advocacy
Family programming was re-established at The Center, providing programs and services for LGBTQ-headed families and those considering parenthood
Nicole Murray Ramirez, Robert Gleason, Dr. Delores Jacobs, The San Diego LGBT Community Center, and a broad coalition of civic and business leaders established the first Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast. Since then it has grown to become one of the largest, most diverse events of its kind, bringing together more than 1,000 San Diegans annually
Engage San Diego was established, forming a nonprofit network of local civil rights, social justice, health and environmental organizations focused on nonpartisan civic engagement
Senior Housing Needs Assessment completed
The Young Professionals Council was established in 2009 to develop and empower young LGBTQ professionals and their allies. As part of that effort, in 2012 the YPC Academy was established to help prepare young leaders to further equality through board service for a variety of agencies, not-for-profit organizations and government commissions
The Benjamin F. Dillingham, III and Bridget Wilson LGBTQ Veterans Wall of Honor, first envisioned by Nicole Murray-Ramirez, was established in 2012 to honor and celebrate LGBTQ veterans who have served
The Center began working with Community Housing Works to establish an LGBTQ-welcoming affordable senior housing project in San Diego
At The Center’s 45th Anniversary Gala, a $2 million dollar matching campaign opportunity was announced
The Center’s Youth Services opened the South Bay Clubhouse, a weekly drop-in space for LGBTQ youth in Chula Vista
To help LGBTQ community members experiencing homelessness, The Center’s housing program went from Sunburst Youth Housing Project to an entire continuum of housing services and homelessness prevention — family reunification, host homes, and LGBTQ Safe S.T.A.Y. emergency overnight housing. The Center also offers permanent supportive housing programs to include housing for LGBTQ adults, couples, and families, as well as Project Compassion, a tangible, action-based program that offers direct supportive resources for those experiencing homelessness, provides clients with socks, toiletries, clothes, food, and water, connecting folks to internal and external resources like medical care, addiction and recovery options, and specialized case management.
In an effort to better serve the Black LGBTQ community, The Center hosted a Black Town Hall. This event led to many initiatives including the formation of the Black LGBTQ Community Advisory Committee. This committee, in partnership with The Gender Phluid Collective, the San Diego Black LGBTQ Coalition, and the Unity Fellowship Church, created and are hosting Brave Space, a peer-led discussion group for LGBTQ folx of the Black and African diaspora community. The Center is helping the San Diego Black LGBTQ Coalition to obtain its own 501(c)(3) status, serving as the fiscal agent for the Coalition, free of charge, in the interim period, with the goal of this organization obtaining its 501(c)(3) status in 2021. In partnership with the Black LGBTQ Community Advisory Committee, The Center provided several educational opportunities for Center staff and volunteers on anti-Black racism and on how to be better allies to the Black LGBTQ community.
The Center closed its doors for in-person services due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 20, 2020. Throughout the pandemic, The Center provided Emergency Services including an Emergency Referral and Resource phone line, Behavioral Health Services via Zoom Healthcare, Individual Program Meetings and Check-Ins via Zoom, Virtual Support Groups, Critical Housing needs, Healthcare services including health care enrollment assistance and HIV testing, and Food Resources. The Center set up an Emergency Fund: https://thecentersd.org/giving/
The Board of Directors voted unanimously that The Center will no longer allow armed uniformed law enforcement officers at Center facilities or at Center events, unless as a last resort or in response to a true emergency. The Center works with the Coalition for Police Accountability and Transparency (CPAT) in calling for local governments to pass the Police Accountability Now policy reforms.
The Center shares how it has responded to our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Center launches the Training Institute providing high-quality, professional trainings to assist organizations to strengthen their knowledge and skills in working with the LGBTQ community, as well as how to best serve and respect LGBTQ people.
The Center launches a new website that is user-friendly, easy to navigate, and more intentionally showcases specific programs targeted to our LGBTQ community.
During The Center’s closure due to the pandemic, the main facility at 3909 Centre Street received upgrades including new floors, new lighting, a new welcome desk and lobby area, renovated restrooms, a new Sexual Health & Wellness Lounge, new community meeting rooms, and improvements to the sound system in the historic auditorium, as well as a new HVAC system to provide the cleanest air possible to our community.