For many LGBT youth, the allure of Hollywood and West Hollywood remains powerful. Unfortunately, too many LGBT youth – either chasing their dreams or escaping rejection, harassment and abuse at home – often discover harsh realities once they arrive.
But for homeless LGBT youth, there is a beacon of hope -- the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Youth Center on Highland. The City of West Hollywood is proud to support the programs of the Youth Center.
Formerly located on Santa Monica Boulevard and known as the Jeff Griffith Youth Center, the program has recently moved into new facilities on Highland, between Santa Monica and Sunset where it now serves even more youth every day.
While the Youth Center offers case management, education and employment training, health education, substance abuse and mental health programs, perhaps its greatest gift to its clients is simply providing them with a safe, comfortable and affirming environment to escape the challenges of the streets.
“We are very proud of our longstanding partnership with the City of West Hollywood, which has encouraged and supported the development of the new facilities and growth in our programming,” said Simon Costello, associate director of The Center’s Department of Children, Youth & Family Services. “Together with the City we are working to help young people get off the streets and into activities and settings that lead them toward productive, self-sufficient lives.”
Young people can get a hot breakfast, wash their clothes, take a shower and get any necessary clothing items from the clothing closet of donated and purchased clothing. Lunch and hot dinner is also available daily, and youth can access a community lounge, computers with free Internet access and a variety of support groups.
The City is particularly proud to support the GED preparation program, provided for free to participants, with financial assistance available for the fees associated with taking the GED test. The program is self-paced and includes one-on-one tutoring. Each year, the West Hollywood City Council hosts a “graduation” for those who have successful completed the program.
For those who have already graduated from high school, the Youth Center’s Education Center works to help with college applications and financial aid forms. There is also a career development program that helps young people with develop resumes, practice interviewing skills and links them to internship and job opportunities.
The West Hollywood community also plays a role here. For example, one Youth Center client recently secured an internship at a West Hollywood art gallery, and others have been able to connect with the leadership at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station to more confidently pursue their dreams of a career in law enforcement. West Hollywood businesses are encouraged to connect with the Youth Center to provide job shadowing, internship and job opportunities. You can do so by contacting Sarah Hyland, the Education and Employment Coordinator, at (323) 860-3613 or at email@example.com.
The new facility has also allowed the Youth Center to increase the number of emergency shelter beds from six to 20. This enhanced programming allows them to help youth who simply need a safe place to sleep, as well as a more intensive program for youth who are homeless and have mental health issues.
“I am thrilled that we now have a facility that lives up to the high quality of our programming,” said Curt Shepard, director of The Center’s Department of Children, Youth & Family Services. “Over the past few years, our Youth Center staff -- across the board -- have raised their expectations of what our clients are capable of, and more and more clients are meeting those higher expectations. Physical surroundings can make a difference in one’s motivation to make positive changes in one’s life, and we’re definitely seeing that here in the new drop-in center.”
The Youth Center on Highland is located at 1220 N. Highland and is open Monday through Friday from 8:30am-5:30pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 8:30am-4:30pm. For more information, visit www.lagaycenter.org, call (323) 860-2280 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.