When the pandemic hit, LGBT centers, which provide a multitude of support services for the community, were forced to shut down and shift their operations online.
It’s been a challenging time for them to engage the community as well as raising the funds necessary to keep their operations and programs up and running. All of their major fundraisers were forcing them to quickly learn how to raise money in a virtual world.
SFGN takes a look at three of those centers: The Pride Center at Equality Park in Wilton Manors; Pridelines in Miami; and Compass in Lake Worth.
201 N Dixie Hwy in Lake Worth
Compass Community Center is one of the most sought after organizations in Palm Beach County. One of the main ingredients to the success of Compass is the services that they provide. As the world adjusts to the “new normal,” Compass has managed to continue its normal services.
“Staff are working mostly remotely, with a limited number of people in the building each day. This allows us to do the work that we need to onsite for, while still limiting contact and reducing risk,” said Claudia Harrison Chief Communications Officer at Compass. “So making sure we have someone assigned at the front desk every day is still important, as we answer the door all day long to hand out condoms and masks, provide resource information to community members, and connect clients with their case managers for check-ins in the lobby.”
Although access to the building is limited Compass still offers social groups, youth services, grief and loss support groups, HIV positive support groups for men, and coming out support groups. These support groups and services continue through online, telephone, virtual video, and in-person appointments. If visiting the building in person, a mask is required and your temperature will be taken.
One of the major events Compass had to cancel was Palm Beach Pride, which generates thousands of dollars in revenue for the community center. However, they did participate in Virtual Pride, as part of the South Florida Pride Collective. The event raised money for Miami Beach Pride, Pride Fort Lauderdale, Gay8, Stonewall Pride, and Compass. Another event that was revamped was the Stonewall Ball in June.
“We re-envisioned it as the ‘Stay the Heck Home Ball’ and encouraged our Compass communities to host virtual dinner parties with their friends, order in from our supporting area restaurants, and make a pitch to raise funds for Compass,” Harrison said. “The result was tremendous — combined, everyone raised over $20,000 that month, and photos from people’s individual dinner parties were so fun and heartwarming to see.”
The youth services have probably been the biggest challenge for Compass. “Safer at Home” is difficult for some youth that don’t have the best support or acceptance at home. Therapists have provided over 20 group therapy sessions and 150 individual sessions.
In addition to offering therapy, regular get-togethers like virtual pizza parties and video cooking classes have been held.
Thanks to grants and generous support from regular Compass sponsors like Wells Fargo and Gilead, Compass has received funds that have allowed them to continue their programming and services without missing any interruption.
They are still offering free rapid HIV testing at the center but by appointment only. Hours for appointments are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
For 30 years, Compass has been a safe space for community members, whether it’s for those living HIV, individuals looking for HIV tests, or just by being a shoulder to lean on, or a nonjudgmental listening ear.
“We know it’s the best and wisest thing we can do, to adjust to virtual services and limit the number of people who come inside, but we miss the hugs we share with our beloved volunteers and seeing people come in each night for the life-saving support group gatherings,” Harrison said. “Since April, we have used Zoom to host 450 therapy sessions and support group meetings for over 2,650 people. We will continue offering every service we can in a virtual way instead, as long as we need to in order to keep all of us safe. Compass’s strength has always been in creating safe spaces for our community, and we are committed to continuing that, even in virtual spaces.”
– Deon Jefferson
The Pride Center
2040 N. Dixie Hwy in Wilton Manors
Serving Broward County in the heart of Wilton Manors, The Pride Center has always been active on social media. But when the coronavirus forced businesses and nonprofits to implement social distancing, they amped up their presence to continue connecting with the people they serve.
“We continue to work with the many programs, groups, and events that usually meet on campus to help identify virtual platforms to ensure they are able to connect with their participants,” the center said in a statement.
Thanks to Facebook Live and other social media features, the team at The Pride Center has been able to host online discussions, Q&As, and even provide weekly virtual tours of The Residences at Equality Park, the brand-new residential center for low-income LGBT seniors. These meetings have allowed popular gatherings like Coffee & Conversation to continue, a program for LGBT seniors to meet others and discuss hard-hitting issues. With the digital format, guests such as Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis and Congressman Ted Deutch have been able to participate.
Other notable members of the center have also taken to Facebook Live, such as Prevention Interventions Coordinator Lorenzo Robertson and Testing and Community Mobilization Coordinator Tatiana Williams, have hosted twice-weekly updates where they share news on food distributions, assistance programs in the community, testing sites for COVID-19 and more.
According to the center’s analytics, visitors viewed 50,000 minutes worth of videos in the second quarter.
For HIV testing, the center refers clients to community partners that are able to do on-site testing for HIV and STIs. Staff and testing counselors are also always available by phone to answer questions about HIV, PrEP and other health topics. The annual LIFE program will virtual this year — a 12-week program starting Sept. 22 for gay, bisexual and same-gender-loving men with HIV.
– Christiana Lilly
6360 NE 4th Court in Miami
With so much of their programming done in-person, Pridelines had to make a major pivot when COVID-19 forced the county into lock-down in March. People are now able to meet with support groups online via Zoom, and more sensitive and health-related groups are on HIPAA compliant platforms to ensure privacy.
“Thankfully we were able to move quickly enough at the beginning of this pandemic to move all of our programs, like our support groups, or LGBT youth — our peer life, online,” said Victor Diaz-Herman, the CEO of Pridelines.
However, not everything can be done on a computer. HIV testing and emergency services are available by appointment only, and Plexiglass shields were put up in the reception area. Only three staff members are at the center at a time and they must wear masks and shields. Clients leave once they have received their services; staff removed the furniture and art gallery area to encourage people to move on.
Clients can get tested for HIV with a shield separating them from the person conducting the finger-prick test. There is also an oral swab option where the client can swab their mouth themselves. There is also drive-through testing and for special cases, at-home testing.
Another program that is continuing on-site is emergency services, where people can wash their clothes, get clothing, and get survival kits filled with socks, shoes, bras, wigs, binders, face masks, hand sanitizer and Latex gloves. Pridelines also gives out toothbrushes and toothpaste, bars of soap, and snack bars.
With Pridelines’ major fundraisers being rescheduled, the center has survived with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and COVID relief grants.
Diaz-Herman explained that the center’s “unrestricted funds” are what fund the programs that aren’t covered by grants, which are mainly youth programs and the center’s overhead, like rent and electricity.
In June, Pridelines hosted a fundraising campaign that generated $67,000. There have been talks of a virtual gala, but donors have shared that they’d rather just donate the money.
Monetary donations are always welcome, and people can host fundraisers online in honor of their birthday or other special days. For those interested in in-kind donations, the center is always in need of gloves, masks and hand sanitizer. Companies can also partner with Pridelines to sponsor meal giveaways
“I think everybody is kind of in the same boat; we’re all trying different things and hoping it works,” Diaz-Herman said. “There are still ways to volunteer for organizations even without having physical space, especially right now … every little bit helps.”
– Christiana Lilly