Plans underway for LGBT teen resource center in St. Pete - FOX 13 News

Plans underway for LGBT teen resource center in St. Pete

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Among many other programs, St. Petersburg's Metro Wellness and Community Centers already offer an LGBT teen outreach called "Next Generation."

"That's a safe place for them to make friends, have discussions," program director Adam Jahr explained. "To deal with coming out, deal with bullying issues."

If an effort already well-underway comes to fruition, that outreach will be one of two functions of an LGBT Welcome Center. The Metro moved a donated bungalow into the 2200 block of Central Avenue last summer, and is now raising money to transform the structure into a coffee house.

Teens are one target, LGBT travelers are the second audience.

"They're somewhat two different audiences," director of welcome center development Larry Biddle conceded. "But I think coming together will be very easy."

The house is on a major bus route, so access will be easy. He says LGBT teens will find a safe haven, and a connection to social services.

"In the Tampa Bay area, of the young people who are homeless, 40 percent of them are LGBT and they need services -- they're very desperate," Biddle said, adding that more than 60 percent of that group contemplate suicide at some point.

In contrast, years ago, Visit St. Pete-Clearwater, Pinellas County's tourism bureau, identified LGBT travelers as an affluent market segment, and has spent its advertising dollars accordingly.

The welcome center's second function reflects a similar belief.

"We are not a travel agency," Biddle declared. "What we want to do is direct people to places, destinations, engagement opportunities we feel are going to be something that they are interested in, and we're pretty sure that they'll be welcome in those places."

The welcome center project has a $157,000 price tag, and the annual operating budget will be roughly $100,000. The Metro Centers spent $38,000 moving the bungalow two blocks down Central Avenue.

There is an ambitious time table: supporters hope to have the welcome center and coffee house open in time for the St. Pete Pride event, which is always on the last weekend in June.


For more information:

Metro Wellness and Community Centers

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