JANINE ANDERSON firstname.lastname@example.org | Posted: Monday, January 4, 2010 12:10 am
RACINE — At this time last year, the city had just given the LGBT Center of Southeast Wisconsin approval to open in Uptown. The group had a Web site, and plans for a building on Junction Avenue, but not much more.
Now, nine months after opening its doors at 1456 Junction Ave., the center hosts support groups and social functions, provides referrals and does a fair share of crisis work for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and their families. Executive Director Bruce Joffe said they didn’t really know what was needed in the community until they started work here.
“What shocked me was the amount of clinical services and support that was needed,” he said. “We got calls from people referred from 211 (a hot line for family, health and social services).”
He said the county’s probation and parole agents have called looking for help for clients who were being released from jail or prison. These weren’t sex offenders, Joffe said, but gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people who had committed other crimes. They needed to meet people, Joffe said, but because of the conditions of their release, they often couldn’t go to a club or online.
Once, he said, a woman called who said she had just found evidence that for the past several years her husband had been meeting with men he found online. She started coming in to the center regularly for help and support, Joffe said. Another woman contacted the center, he said, when her teenage son announced he was bisexual, and brought his boyfriend home.
Other agencies refer people to the LGBT Center when they think it could help, Joffe said, and he and the center’s volunteers do the same thing.
“It’s been a very good synergy,” he said.
The LGBT Center raised about 45 percent of its operating funds, according to its annual report. Other financial support came from groups like the United Way, Racine Community Foundation and Racine Arts Council.
In 2010, Joffe said, the LGBT Center’s main message is “You are not alone.”
He said the center has several new programs in the works to reach out to people — particularly youth — in Racine and Kenosha.
As of Feb. 1, the LGBT Center will have three new staff members — an assistant director who will staff the center on weekday evenings, and two high school seniors who will work with youth in Racine and Kenosha — and be part of a Leadership Kenosha project to get information about the center to students in Kenosha-area schools.