Center CEO Lorri L. Jean: “It’s Been a Wild Ride — But We’re Still Hanging On”

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By Lorri L. Jean

Lately, I feel like much of my life has been a roller coaster ride:

In the world of COVID-19, a few months ago the Center was preparing to revive in-person services that had to go virtual at the beginning of Covid because the government didn’t consider them “essential”. (Our critical front-line services such as medical care and housing have never stopped being live during Covid.) Staff were beginning to come back to work in our various locations, we were having in-person meetings, and it was wonderful to see people live and in person again. Then the Delta variant hit, and we had to put the brakes on. Most of our staff is back to working from home and delivering programs virtually.
In the world of politics, if the recall of Governor Newsom had been successful, the highest-polling replacement candidate was an anti-LGBT, misogynist conservative. Thankfully, the tide turned, and the voters retained Newsom by a landslide. Around the same time, though, Texas passed a law effectively banning abortions in the Lone Star State. This has prompted other red states that want to control women’s bodies to consider enacting similar laws.
• In the world of public health, the Center courageously took an early stand on behalf of science, the public health, and the safety of our staff and clients by requiring that Center employees be vaccinated as a condition of employment (subject to applicable laws, of course). I was deeply saddened that nine staff chose to leave our employ rather than to get vaccinated.
 
These days it seems like almost every “up” is followed by some kind of “down.” It has been maddening! It’s times like these when I am enormously grateful to work at the Los Angeles LGBT Center because I don’t have to look far to see signs of hope and evidence of so much that is good in the world. Just a few recent examples include:

• In the last month, after more than a year of frustrating Covid-caused delays, we finally opened our new Ariadne Getty Foundation Senior Housing—98 units of affordable housing for seniors! The place looks great, and everyone has been moving in. The excitement and pride have been palpable. One of our earliest occupants asked whether it would be OK if he flew a rainbow pride flag in his window. “Of course!” we said. We want EVERYONE in the new building to be that proud.

After years of urging the Board of Supervisors to fund specific services for LGBTQ youth in the foster care pro-gram, where queer youth are horribly overrepresented and often harmed and abused, we were getting nowhere. We finally called on our community to help, urging people to make their voices heard and demand that something be done. You all rose to the occasion and that seemed to break the log jam. With the support of Department of Children & Family Services Director Bobby Cagle, a proposal recently was approved by the Board of Supervisors—spearheaded by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda L. Solis—to dedicate $3.6 million for such services in Year One. It was a desperately needed start, and we applaud everyone who has played a role in achieving this important first step!
When Congress passed the American Rescue Plan, it included 70,000 housing vouchers nationwide for people experiencing homelessness, including youth. These vouchers were unprecedented as they would provide help for TEN years. Only 6,806 vouchers came to Los Angeles which, as of our last homeless count, had more than 66,000 homeless people. So, 6,806 vouchers was a drop in the bucket. But our Youth Services staff were undaunted. They jumped right on it and submitted applications on behalf of our youth clients. The Center was eligible to apply because we committed to providing wraparound services to these youth for the next year. It seemed like a total long shot. Imagine our joy to learn that we had been granted vouchers for 22 youth clients! These youth will be able to have 10 years of living in an apartment without having to worry about falling back into homelessness! That is a game changer for them! Our staff will do everything we can to help these youth get decent jobs and/or complete their educations to lay the foundation necessary for a stable and successful life. Just one example of the many long-shots we’ve achieved!
• My successor, Joe Hollendoner, has now been on the job as Executive Director since July 6th. (He’ll assume the CEO role after I retire on July 1, 2022.) Nothing has caused me more concern over the past few years than worrying about whether the Board would find a new CEO who would be up to the task of leading this phenomenal organization and continuing its vital work. They couldn’t have made a better choice than Joe. He has spent the first several months totally immersing himself in the Center’s work in a way I never could when I was new. I’ve had the opportunity to see him in action. He’s smart, insightful, passionate, and hard working. His judgment has been stellar, and his sense of humor greatly welcome. You can learn a little bit more about Joe on the next page. I hope you’ll be able to meet him in person soon, and I know you’ll be as impressed as I am.
 
The good news is, despite the challenges of the last 19 months, the Center’s work abounds with stories of hope and health, pride, happiness, and love. None of these things could happen without the support of all of you, our wonderful community. Thank you!  

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