Community advocates released the initial findings from a survey examining the needs for LGBTQ residents on the city's South Side on July 8. That assessment will largely determine the scope of a $15 million LGBTQ community center to be built on the South Side.
The South Side Needs Assessment survey was launched by Howard Brown Health and the Pride Action Tank advocacy, and also came to fruition thanks to state Rep. Lamont Robinson, a key legislative advocate for the new center.
"It takes a village to make sure that the vision becomes a reality," said Robinson at the opening of the July 8 presentation. "…This is just the startwe need these centers all across the state."
The concepts for the center and assessment have been in place since 2019, and planning continued even as the COVID-19 pandemic flared throughout 2020. Pride Action Tank Executive Director Kim Hunt noted that the planning committee only met once in person, in February 2020. The rest of the meetings were conducted virtually.
The 38-question needs assessment was completed by 233 people between June-September 2020; Hunt noted that 177 completed the entire form. The resulting data pointed to an LGBTQ population on the South Side largely satisfied with their geographic location, but wishing for a stronger sense of connection with other local LGBTQ community members as well as increased access to culturally competent service providers.
"Folks felt such a strong sense of community and taking care of each other," Hunt said of the overall response. She added, "The bottom line is that folks are really supportive of the center, but they really want to know what the details are."
An extra benefit from the needs assessment, Hunt noted, came from the time frame in which it was administered. Since respondents took the survey during the pandemic, the assessment now offers a snapshot of how LGBTQ community members responded to and were affected by COVID-19.
"For us to have just a little data based on just a few questions is significant," Hunt said.
Participants in the forum emphasized that Howard Brown would primarily be involved in the venture in terms of healthcare service-delivery. The healthcare system has expanded its footprint across the city in recent years but has faced criticism from advocates who maintain they do not engage already-existing community resources. Channyn Lynne Parker, Howard Brown's director of strategic partnerships, pledged that the new center's planning committee would solicit partnerships with "rooted organizations on the South Side."
She added, "This community center will be for, and run by, community members."
Activist Kelly Saulsberry moderated the July 8 discussion. The full report from the survey is available at prideactiontank.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/SSNA-Final-Report-June-2021.pdf.