The Louisville Pride Foundation will open an LGBTQ community center in 2022
Big plans are underway at a building in old Louisville with a red door.
The second and third floors don’t look like much now, but if you follow the rainbow signs, you’ll find a handful of people working on something Louisville hasn’t had in nearly 40 years: a community center dedicated to LGBTQ people.
The association Louisville Pride Foundation moves into the top two floors of the Asian Cultural Center, crane house,1244 S. 3rd St., with plans to turn it into a community center by June, just in time for Pride Month.
Mike Slaton, CEO of Louisville Pride Foundationsaid the community center project has been underway for years.
In 2016, a coalition held community meetings and generated interest, but fell apart. In early 2020, the Louisville Pride Foundation and several other community groups revisited the project, intending to do focus groups and research venues — but the onslaught of the pandemic put that all on hold.
The Louisville Pride Foundation isn’t the only Louisville organization growing. At the end of 2021, another LGBTQ association, gentle evening breezegrew from a “small closet” to a 2,500 square foot office in the Highlands Professional Plaza Building, 801 Barret Ave. Both spaces provide vital resources to underserved populations.
Now with a dedicated address, the Louisville Pride Foundation can move forward with its vision.
“It could be a meeting room, or a co-working space, or even available to rent for events,” Slaton said when touring the space. “We can even be a mailing address for other organizations trying to get started.”
A One-Stop LGBTQ Resource Center
Slaton and his team are still in the early stages of design the space, remove old furniture, discuss interior design and seek a donor for new carpeting. After a few months of renovations, the yet to be officially named Louisville LGBTQ Community Center will open.
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Louisville has not had a dedicated LGBTQ community center since the CommTEN center operated in the 1980s.
“Every community larger than Louisville has one [community center], and a lot of smaller communities,” Slaton said. “It’s important because it gives the community a sense of stability and a landmark that we can call our own. It gives people a point of reference when seeking help.”
The new center has three main goals: to create a safe, warm and welcoming environment for LGBTQ people and allied friends and family; bridging the service gap for LGBTQ people looking for services they don’t know how to access; and to act as a backbone for other LGBTQ organizations in Louisville to provide space for meetings, fundraisers, events, and networking.
“We will have a small, closed-network pantry … a behavioral health center, places for therapists and internship students to provide mental health counseling. This will be an entry point for LGBTQ people seeking places to connect. We want to be the center of reference and resources. It’s not so much about creating new services as being an extension point for other organisations.”
Louisville Pride Foundation advisory member Victoria Taylor said “it’s about time” for this to happen in Louisville.
“Apart from bars, there aren’t many places to go,” she said. “I think for a lot of kids it will be a great place to meet up, find resources and feel safe, instead of hanging out in places where they might be preyed upon.”
While Louisville received a perfect score from the human rights campaign since 2015, a 2021 study supplemented by SafeHome.org reports that Kentucky is tied with Mississippi and Montana as 45th in the nation for LGBTQ safety.
According to Gallup/Williams data as of 2019, approximately 3.4% of adult Kentuckians identify as LGBTQ. Only 31% of Kentucky counties prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and only two counties in Kentucky – Jefferson County and Fayette County – have ordinances prohibiting conversion therapy for minors.
“Even in 2022, it’s still a challenge for LGBTQ people to find places where they can be themselves, especially with transgender people increasingly being used as a political corner and targeted,” Slaton said. “Having a space that isn’t a bar where people can socialize, meet, make friends and feel part of the community is really important.”
Serving Louisville’s LGBTQ homeless population
The office from which Sweet Evening Breeze previously operated was little more than a closet. Now in a new building on Barrett Avenue, this Louisville nonprofit, which focuses on supporting and housing LGBT youth experiencing homelessness, can evolve into its original vision. Already, the new office has begun offering services like free cross-centered group therapy, LGBTQ family group therapy, and HIV testing and needle exchanges.
Executive director Glenn Martin said the band had been looking for a new space for over a year.
“We are now in the second phase of our growth process to become what we really want to be, which is a service and residential center at the same time,” he said. “It’s great to know that we can continue to grow in this space and offer additional services. There’s a lot of room here and I’m delighted.”
The organization is named after James “Sweet Evening Breeze” Herdon, who was born in Scott County, Kentucky in 1892 and is thought to be the originator of the Lexington drag scene. Founded in 2018, the group received its nonprofit status in 2019 and hired Martin as a director in 2020.
Martin said Sweet Evening Breeze intended to operate on Barrett Avenue for about two years, slowly expanding programming while raising funds and looking for an even larger facility they could use to provide the both housing and services for LGBTQ youth.
Slaton said the two organizations initially looked for spaces together, but chose to be in two different nearby locations. The groups will partner up and potentially offer joint programming, he said. That’s why they announced the new buildings together.
“Being LGBTQ+ means having experienced isolation at some point in your life, which leads to all kinds of disparities and an increased risk of suicide, homelessness, substance abuse, underemployment, all kinds of hardship,” Slaton said. “We can’t save the world with just one building, but we can let people know they’re not alone.”
Journalist Dahlia Ghabour covers food, culinary trends and restaurants in the Louisville area. Send tips on new places or story ideas to [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dghabour.
Louisville Pride Foundation
WHAT: A non-profit organization that seeks to promote unity between LGBTQ people and straight allies by engaging in conversation with the wider community. The Louisville Pride Foundation organizes the Louisville Pride Festival each September.
OR: 1244 S. 3rd St., Louisville
MORE INFORMATION: Donate online at louisvillepride.com/donation or mail a check to Louisville Pride Foundation, PO Box 4341, Louisville, KY 40204. You can also sign up to volunteer at louisvillepride.com/festival/volunteer.
gentle evening breeze
WHAT: A non-profit organization committed to serving young LGBTQ people aged 18 to 24 who are homeless.
OR: 801 Barret Avenue, Louisville