The San Diego LGBT Community Center

The Center
What makes your organization unique in its approach to addressing homelessness?

The San Diego LGBT Community Center enhances and sustains the health & well-being of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender, nonbinary, immigrant, and HIV communities to the betterment of our entire San Diego region. We focus on youth (ages 18-24) who are LGBTQ+ and/or living with HIV in San Diego County.


We provide a unique wraparound approach ranging from providing food, homelessness outreach, prevention and diversion, intervention services, behavioral health services, case management, to emergency assistance and emergency housing, motel voucher program, short-term supportive and long-term supportive housing for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 18-24).


What is a misconception you think the public has about homelessness?

Many don't fully appreciate the heightened demographic risk factors of youth homelessness. LGBTQ young adults are twice as likely to experience homelessness as their non-LGBTQ peers, due to circumstances around family rejection because of their sexual identity and/or gender orientation. This homelessness leads to higher rates of trauma and adversity, including twice the rate of early death and an increased risk of suicide. 


When was the organization founded?

In 1971, the world was a very different place for the LGBTQ+ community; many lived in secrecy, fear, and being “out” simply was not an option for LGBTQ+ community members. Just being a member of the LGBTQ+ community could be dangerous, life threatening, and there was no place to turn to for help. The Center’s history started with a borrowed closet, and an answering machine. These two items created a powerful life-changing lifeline for those looking for a compassionate connection. Now, almost 50 years later, we have evolved into one of the largest and most vibrant LGBTQ+ Community Centers in the nation, providing our community with more than 87,600 direct service visits each year.


You are part of the "intervention" giv4 homelessness category. Can you explain more what work your organization does in this area?

We provide services ranging from prevention, intervention, homeless outreach, and diversion; gender identity and other support groups; STI prevention education and HIV testing; health plan enrollment; behavioral healthcare; and LGBTQ+ competent resources. We provide the County’s first and only LGBTQ+ youth focused: 23-unit permanent supportive housing complex and 23-additional units of scattered-site permanent supportive housing; Host Homes program; motel voucher program; and Emergency Housing Program (providing 4-beds of LGBTQ+-specific housing 7-nights/week).


We provide family reunification services reconnecting youth with their families, when safe and appropriate, to prevent youth homelessness while the entire family receives counseling, as well as two drop-in youth centers. Our goals are to improve the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ youth by providing supportive services that address basic needs and additional essential services.


Is your organization looking for volunteers? Are you looking for committee/board members with particular skill sets? Do you need in-kind donations of any sort?

If you would like to assist with volunteering events please contact: [email protected]. For in-kind donations please contact Ian Johnson at [email protected].


What else would you want people to know about your organization?

In providing services we use the evidence-based approach, Positive Youth Development (PYD). Studies reveal PYD’s effectiveness in supporting youth at high-risk of a variety of life challenges, such as housing instability. Using PYD, we maintain unwavering respect for youths’ strengths, emphasize their self-determined goals and choices, and celebrate their successes toward achieving these goals.


We employ culturally-sensitive staff who are knowledgeable of LGBTQ+ youth-related issues and stresses, with lived experience as an ally or member of the LGBTQ+ community. Staff work with LGBTQ+ youth, encouraging each to regain a sense of control in their life situation and gain confidence in their ability to achieve stable housing. The Center changes lives’ by improving youths’ outcomes, thus decreasing suicide, homelessness, and substance abuse; and increasing the number of healthy and productive members of society.


What stories would you like to share?

(Name Changed for confidentiality): Steve moved into our Sunburst Youth Housing Project 8 years ago. He was homeless and couch surfing with extended family members and friends prior to living at Sunburst. He was kicked out of his mother’s home due to his sexual orientation and both of his parents were not accepting or supportive. Upon arrival, Steve shared he wanted to become an ASL interpreter. He was enrolled in community college while working part-time.


With stable housing at Sunburst, he focused on his education, working towards transferring to a university. He began meeting with a therapist from Behavioral Health Services to receive support for his anxiety and depression. In time, Steve became a certified ASL interpreter and transferred to SDSU to complete his bachelor’s degree. This year, Steve graduated from SDSU. He gave his 30-day notice to move out and plans to move in with his partner, owning their own apartment. Steve thanked Sunburst staff for the support he received over the past years!

I would love to learn more directly from The Center
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