Local LGBT Community Centers Suffer Damage From Irma

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The Pride Center at Equality Park opened its doors after Hurricane Irma on Thursday four days after the storm blew through South Florida. But not without damage.

The center lost 4 of its 15 A/C units.

“We’re facing major damages financially,” said Pride Center Chief Operations Officer Kristofer Fegenbush. “Air conditioning units aren’t cheap.”

Fegenbush said re-opening quickly was important as the center facilitates many support programs. Those in 12-step programs are particularly vulnerable during times of crisis, Fegenbush said.

“Now is the time when people can be triggered because of the grieving and stress from the storm,” Fegenbush said.

The Florida National Guard secured the center’s warehouse as a staging location for food and water distribution. Elkin Alfred, representing United Way of Broward County, set up a table inside the warehouse to assist those in need.

Alfred said while unfortunate, Hurricane Irma brought people together.

“It’s good to see people out talking to their neighbors again and asking what they can do to help,” Alfred said.

Along with disrupting group meetings, the hurricane briefly put a pause on health programs. There was no HIV or STI testing available for the first few days after reopening. Those services have now resumed.

Meanwhile, Compass in Lake Worth was closed all of last week due to a loss of power and lack of major traffic lights leading into the city. The Center reopened on Monday for limited services. The building’s air handler was also damaged so the center is without A/C.

“With water to mop up in the front door area, a few roof leaks to fan dry, shutters to remove and trees to be cut yesterday, we couldn't host crucial social and support groups last night as people are feeling nauseated from the heat as the fans are offering little to no relief,” said Julia Seaver, Chief Operations Officer for Compass Community Center.

Their HIV testing is also on hold for now until they’re able to get new HIV tests.

 


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