In celebration of Pride Month this June, TNOYS is proud to spotlight just a few of our members whose work is making a positive impact in LGBTQIA+ communities. Youth who identify as LGBTQIA+ are often overrepresented among the populations our members serve. In fact, data show that LGBTQIA+ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than non-LGBTQIA+ youth.
TNOYS encourages organizations to work in collaboration with young people to inform how services can be safe, welcoming, and equitable. Below, we’re proud to highlight how four TNOYS member organizations are building equitable services for Texas’ LGBTQIA+ youth and young adults. Two organizations, the Montrose Center and Montrose Grace Place, have a storied history supporting LGBTQIA+ communities in Houston. TNOYS members LifeWorks and Jane’s Due Process are also two organizations that focus on equity and accessibility when serving LGBTQIA+ young people in Austin and Statewide respectively. Read on to get to know these members and learn about their practices.
The Montrose Center aims to empower Houston’s LGBTQIA+ community to live healthier, more fulfilling lives. As LIFE Counseling Program Coordinator Thomas Owsley explained, the center is constantly striving to find new ways to reach and be of service to the LGBTQIA+ community. They aim to be a safe space where everyone can be their authentic selves and get comprehensive help from competent, qualified, and supportive staff and volunteers.
Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Montrose Center’s youth programs impacted approximately 1,100 youth through different services. In 2020 alone, the Montrose Center served 306 youth through their Hatch Drop-In Center, approximately 365 youth in Project Remix programs, 48 youth in Youth Rapid Rehousing, and 55 youth in the SafeZones Project. Additionally, hundreds more had access to counseling services, trainings, and events.
Thomas Owsley explained that their impact goes beyond the numbers— after working at the center for six years, Thomas can attest to their team’s incredible impact for Houston’s LGBTQIA+ community. As Thomas recalled,
“I’ve heard stories over the years from every program about how much our clients needed and appreciated our work, sometimes coming back years later just to say ‘thank you.’ From helping clients get housed and become independent, to feeling affirmed and experiencing gender euphoria just because someone used the right name and pronouns, to healing from trauma or substance use problems, and being supported as they develop into the person they want to be, living their truths, our staff supports incredible growth and change in the community. I’m honored to be a part of it.”
– Thomas Owsley, MA, LMFT, LPC, LIFE Counseling Program Coordinator, Staff Therapist
Montrose Grace Place (MGP) was founded in 2009 by members of Grace Lutheran Church to serve and provide a safe space for youth experiencing homelessness in the Montrose area. Their mission is to provide a safe, welcoming environment for vulnerable youth of all sexualities and genders, providing nourishment, healthy relationships, and hope for the future.
Their ”youth night” is held twice a week on Monday and Thursday at 6:00 pm. The event welcomes youth between the ages of 13 and 24 who are experiencing homelessness and provides them with a healthy dinner served family-style with their volunteers, followed by a creative group activity and a facilitated peer discussion group. As Executive Director Courtney Sellers explains,
“At Montrose Grace Place we help meet the basic needs of LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness through our bi-weekly youth nights. But our programming is so much bigger than that. We provide services and access to resources in a safe and affirming space where youth are loved and encouraged to be themselves. LGBTQ+ youth are seen for who they are at MGP and create and maintain long-term lasting bonds with healthy adult mentors in the community. We imagine and work toward a world where our services are no longer necessary.”
– Courtney Sellers, Executive Director
LifeWorks is an advocate for youth and families seeking their path to self-sufficiency. On any given night, they shelter or house more than 140 youth, but are working to help more youth since they know the need is far greater. One of their primary goals is to end youth homelessness in Austin. LifeWorks also is committed to helping lower the barriers experienced by youth who have grown up in foster care or spent time on the streets through evidence-based, rapid employment to help these youth find their place in the workforce.
LifeWork’s client population includes many young people who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, and they work to ensure they are a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth as well as their allies. Julianne Hanckel, Director of Marketing & Communications, shares more:
“Clients who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community are supported by our compassionate staff who embrace the individual for who they are and who they may want to become. We believe that everyone deserves a place to call home, the opportunity to learn and to work and a chance to heal. Through our array of programs and services, youth have access to the resources they need to continue their journey, regardless of how they choose to identify.”
– Julianne Hanckel, Director of Marketing and Communications
Jane’s Due Process is working towards a future where young people in Texas have full reproductive freedom and autonomy over their healthcare decisions.
Their work includes legal support and 1-on-1 case management for Texas teens, a text line for young people needing information on birth control and family planning services, and advocating for and centering the voices of young people in their reproductive health. An important piece of this work is ensuring services are accessible for all youth, including those in the LGBTQIA+ community. As Director of External Affairs Nan Kirkpatrick explained,
“At Jane’s Due Process, we train our staff and volunteers not to assume a client’s sexual orientation or gender identity. We affirm a young person’s gender expression by using the name and pronouns they self-identify as rather than what is on legal documents. LGBTQ+ youth often experience harm in judicial or medical settings and we do everything we can to fight that stigma.”
– Nan Kirkpatrick, Director of External Affairs
TNOYS is grateful to these member organizations for sharing with us the impact they are making in the LGBTQIA+ communities and for allowing us to feature them in this blog post celebrating Pride Month. To learn more about TNOYS and how to join our member network, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.