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Organizations Supporting LGBTQIA+ Youth


Dreams of Hope at the Lawrenceville Farmers Market
Dreams of Hope at the Lawrenceville Farmers Market

Adolescence can be a challenging time for anyone especially in this age of social media and peer pressure, but when youth are faced with questions regarding sexual orientation, the challenges can be even greater.



Christine Bryan, director of communications at Persad Center
Christine Bryan

“Recent studies show that 67% of LGBTQIA+ young people report that they experience symptoms of anxiety and depression,” Christine Bryan, director of communications at Persad Center, said. Other studies and experts have estimated as many as 1 in 4 high school students identify as LGBTQIA+, which means that there are a lot of youth who can benefit from support services.


Persad is one of the organizations in Western PA that supplies imperative assistance to the LGBTQIA+ community. Located in the heart of Lawrenceville, Persad Center is a comprehensive, outpatient mental health center for the LGBTQIA+ community. “We are the second oldest agency in the U.S. focusing on these communities. Founded in 1972, Persad provides our specialized services for everyone at all ages through counseling, therapy, full psychiatry services, group and social support. At Persad Center, we provide a safe space for all youth,” said Bryan.


While Persad has a whole wealth of services, Bryan pointed out that their therapists are trained and equipped to interact with LGBTQIA+ youth in a manner that is sensitive and affirmative. Why is it important to note that they can work with youth, specifically?


“Kids and adults have different life experiences. In the world of youth, there are all sorts of factors – parents, peers, potential bullying and pressures of social media. Kids are already questioning who they are, and adding in sexual orientation is a whole added level of stress,” she said, “It is a recipe for depression and anxiety.”


In addition to therapists and other programming, Persad has an active training department that visits schools and other organizations to assist staff, teachers and others in working with youth. “People are realizing that these conversations need to happen. How can we assist our youth, and how can we assist those who work with them?” Bryan said. The training and workshops also provide assistance to employers and other organizations.


Since Persad serves Greater Western PA, they provide telehealth services for those who may not have ready access to services at the center itself. “This has really helped us to be able to assist people in rural and outlying areas. For parents who have kids who are struggling or the teen in Indiana who can’t get out – we are here,” she said. Persad also has a Washington, PA location.


Persad also assists with some very basic needs for their clients – food and shelter. They have a food pantry and can assist with emergency housing services.


There are the obvious routes for people to help Persad in serving others – donations and volunteers are welcome. But everyone can be an ally and advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community. “Be educated. Talk about services and support systems, but most importantly, be supportive when you can,” said Bryan.



malachiah “kai” koehler
malachiah “kai” koehler

Dreams of Hope was founded in 2003 by Susan Haugh, who recognized the need for creative outlets and positive queer role models for the youth of Pittsburgh. “Dreams of Hope has been providing a welcoming, creative environment for queer and trans young people ever since,” said malachiah “kai” koehler, marketing and outreach steward.


Dreams of Hope offers numerous opportunities for LGBTQIA+ youth, 13 to 26 years old, to grow through art and creative expression. “We believe in art and education as tools for radical change. We provide artistic and educational programming, mentorship from seasoned teaching artists, and access to resources,” koehler said, “Our organization centers on the self-expression, artistic growth, and leadership development of queer and trans young people, while inviting in encouraging community members.”




Bekezela Mguni
Bekezela Mguni

Bekezela Mguni, artistic director, explained that Dreams of Hope includes: theatriQ, a performing arts ensemble; Sqool, in-and-after school programs on art making around LGBTQIA+ themes; SpeaQ, a series for creative expression; and other events and training programs. “We have different types of partnerships, professional training programs and mentorships,” she said.


Lee Richardson, a theatriQ alum, learned about Dreams of Hope from a friend who was participating in a production. “I went to see the show on opening night, and I was like ‘this is really cool.’ I didn’t think that an organization like this even existed,” he said. Richardson, who identifies as a queer, trans/nonbinary male, joined the production the next season.



Lee Richardson
Lee Richardson

“That year, I kind of did a little bit of everything. I participated in set design, planning, and scriptwriting for Hearts on Hold. You may also remember me for my role as Tiara,” he said.


For Richardson, theatriQ isn’t just about the performance. “For me, the greatest moment of queer joy happened as we were finishing the planning for Hearts on Hold. Everything was coming together. Everyone was excited that we were putting on this story about the development of love across generations and what that looks like with these characters,” he said. “We were all feeling really good because it was a room full of queer folks who were happy about putting on a show about queer folks, directed by queer folks and performed by queer folks.”


The various creative outlets and support help queer youth find others to support them, Mguni said. “They may be struggling finding and defining their roles, and we are committed to helping them create a pathway and find true, queer joy.”


The QMNTY Center is a collaborative effort of Trans YOUniting and Proud Haven, which merged in December 2023.



August Copeland
August Copeland

“At QMNTY Center we have pulled the resources of two strong organizations to open up a Drop-In Center/Office,” said August Copeland, case manager for QMNTY. “At our drop-in center outside of the many awesome, fun and interactive monthly programs, we also offer walk-in case management services.” The center also hosts the QMNTY closet, which serves as a clothing pantry for all of those in need, a hygiene pantry and offers Queer Care Kits which provide enough sustainable food for a minimum of three days. Additionally, Allies for Health and Wellbeing visits the Center two nights a week for confidential STI/HIV screening tests.


An important component of QMNTY is the YOUr Haven Shelters program, an emergency and short-term program that provides housing specifically designed for trans and nonbinary identified community members experiencing a housing crisis.


Support programs for LGBTQIA+ youth are more important than ever, Copeland said. “As we speak, we are living in a world where people are becoming more aware of who they are, who they want to be and for LGBTQIA+ individuals, that can often be a dangerous and very scary time, especially for those in the QMNTY that are of color,” he said. “There is a large outcry from the community for resources, housing, information and socialization with like-minded individuals. QMNTY is attempting to do something very achievable by wrapping that all into one conveniently located drop-in center.”


In addition to monetary donations, QMNTY is always looking for donations of nonperishable foods, hygiene products and clothing and volunteers.


For more information:


Persad:

412-441-9786 or www.persadcenter.org

Persad is welcoming new clients and accepts most insurance plans, including Medicaid, and never turns anyone away. 


Dreams of Hope:

412-361-2065


QMNTY’s Drop-In Center:

Located at 525 East Ohio Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

For more information contact 412-364-1324 or visit: https://www.facebook.com/share/PWb1rQxcctnTh24h/?mibextid=LQQJ4d

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