The Friendly City Safe Space works to provide crucial resources to members of the LGBTQ+ community

Pride Festival
Pride Festival(Patsy Montesinos)
Published: May. 11, 2023 at 9:27 AM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The Friendly City Safe Space offers both tangible and intangible resources for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Hyacinth Bellerose, director of The Friendly City Safe Space, said that LGBTQ+ people are often overlooked and are blocked from accessing the care and resources they need. They said that their primary goal is to provide access to these resource and support for the community that may not have access to it.

“Part of our work is trying to create new systems of care that can hold the people that the systems are leaving behind,” Bellerose said. “We try to offer a wide variety of services that can support people on their journey, especially people who are so frequently not finding that support.”

The Friendly City Safe Space offers a community center where LGBTQ+ people can come and interact with other people who identify with them. Bellerose said that it is rare for a room to be filled with only queer people. (Queer is a term used by the LGBTQ+ community to identify themselves with that is not the same acronym as LGBTQ+)

“Everything that we are doing is downstream suicide prevention because the reality is that community is one of the biggest indicators of mental health in queer people,” Bellerose said. “There are so many people that I see coming into this space that have never seen an adult who holds the same identity as them.”

Bellerose emphasized the importance of mental health in the community. According to the Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to commit suicide compared to their straight, cisgender peers. (Cisgender is holding the same gender identity as the sex you were born as, a person who is born male and identifies as a man is cisgender where as someone who is born male but identifies as female is transgender, for more information click here.)

“It’s so rare for queer people but so common for cisgender folks to be in a room full of people who share their identity, so community is a powerful indicator of mental health,” Bellerose said.

Bellerose and the rest of the staff at the Friendly City Safe Space do outreach at schools, universities and the general public to get people who need the resources the most to come to the center and ensure they know they have a place to belong in the community. The center has open hours Wed - Fri from 4pm to 7pm and Sat from 9am to 6pm each week so people can come to the center and interact with other LGBTQ+ community members.

“Some people would tell me that before the safe space, I didn’t have any queer friends and now all my friends are queer,” Bellerose said. “Having that open space is powerful.”

Bellerose said this is an important time for the community to either congregate with fellow LGBTQ+ members or serve as an important ally to the community. They said that the services that provide mental health to the community is “under attack” by laws and regulations.

You can find more information on The Friendly City Safe Space and any of their services/events they hold for the LGBTQ+ community on their website.