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Monday, June 7, 2021

Serving Youth In Person & Introducing The New YQLC Academy

Dear Center Community,

Like so many, The Center has been on a journey of introspection as to how we can emerge from this pandemic as an even stronger champion for our communities. During the pandemic, Hillcrest Youth Center (HYC) celebrated its 20th anniversary and the South Bay Youth Center (SBYC) turned two. Our dedicated staff have served youth from ages 10- 24 in creative and virtual ways, while also changing the hearts and minds of their family members. We are delighted that we are finally able to bring back some in-person services, conducting safe and socially distant 1:1 sessions by appointment, with some of our most vulnerable youth at SBYC and HYC. After more than a year, we’re excited to open our doors to our youth that have an urgent need for support and services, and also find new ways to uplift underserved youth. 
In addition to our client-serving work, we are delighted to announce that The Center's Youth Services staff has created and launched a new youth leadership academy in May! The Queer Youth Leadership Council* is a three year leadership development program for youth comprised of three youth cohorts based on age, 12-13, 14-18, 19-24.The Council includes curriculum and access to community leaders and organizations, to help develop skills and relationships to be thriving leaders; this program is similar to the existing Young Professional Council (YPC), except it is a three year program, intentionally designed for these specific ages groups, and centering youth of color. Not only will our youth learn valuable leadership, empowerment and advocacy skills, but this cutting-edge program will offer a parent or guardian component that will help increase family acceptance. These groundbreaking programs are how we at The Center invest in and grow the next generation of LGBTQ leaders that some day will take the reins and continue the fight for equal rights and justice for the entire community.

This fight requires all of us, and I am so excited about building this leadership pipeline. We know advocacy is ongoing, which is true right now- we need your help to ensure the $5M for LGBTQ+ Housing and Homeless Services is approved tomorrow by the Board of Supervisors! Please submit an e-comment in support of this for Item 3 and read Rebekah’s blurb below for more details.
To the future!
- Cara Dessert (Pronouns: She/Her/Hers)
Chief Executive Officer
*The Queer Leadership Council is supported by Elevate Youth California, which is managed by The Center at Sierra Health Foundation: Center for Health Program Management, a nonprofit public charity which serves in a leadership role in expanding health and wellness in California. 
The County of San Diego Board of Supervisors is beginning their budget process, and this Tuesday they will be voting on how to allocate the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Included in this vote is considering allocating $5 million specifically for LGBTQ homeless services/housing. As you may know, 40% of youth experiencing homelessness are LGBTQ. These funds will be vital as they would be invested in housing resources and other wraparound and supportive services, housing vouchers and local rent subsidy programs, and housing programs prioritizing the LGBTQ community. But we need your help to ensure the $5 M for LGBTQ+ Housing and Homeless Services is approved by the Board of Supervisors! Please submit an e-comment or call in during public comment in support of this for Item 3.
There are two ways to make your voice heard to support this critical funding:
  1. Submit an e-comments in support of Item 3 - $5 M for LGBTQ Homeless Housing and Services!
    1. Instructions for an eComment:
      1. Follow this link to the County’s eComment Portal, fill out your guest information, check the “support” box, and then leave a comment voicing your support.
      2. The deadline for eComment is Tuesday June 8, at 9am.
  2. Call in during public comment to voice support of the item! We think the item will come up around 1 or 2 pm.
    1. Instructions to comment by phone on an item:
      1. Fill out this form to register for public comment by phone
For questions or to get involved more with The Center’s Advocacy team, please email:
- Rebekah Hook-Held (Pronouns: She/Her/Hers)
Chief Public Affairs & Civic Engagement Officer
Ready for some sweets? It's Pride Month and Maya's Cookies is celebrating by unveiling The Pride Collection, which contains six beautiful sugar cookies, each showcasing a color of the Pride flag. For each collection sold during the month of June, a portion of the proceeds will be going to The Center. Founded in 2015 by Maya Madsen, Maya's Cookies is America's #1 Black & Female Owned Gourmet Vegan Cookie Company. Along with providing the highest quality product that appeals to everyone, Maya's Cookies is committed to superior customer service and community engagement, with a focus on youth and underserved communities. Maya's Cookies ships nationwide - simply order as a treat for yourself or as a gift to someone you love. Visit their website here. 

We are so extremely thankful to Maya's Cookies and the number of local business who are donating a portion of their sales throughout June to The Center. Stay tuned as we unveil them throughout the month!

- Ian Johnson (Pronouns: He/Him/His)
Director of Development
During last year’s final City Budget Council meeting, we listened as thousands of San Diego residents called in to the meeting to provide a statement or wrote in an eComment. The far majority of these comments were asking the City Council to reallocate funds from the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) and towards critical community services desperately needed in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, The Center pledged to increase its participation and impact by advocating for a more equitable budget in FY22. As a coalition member of the Community Budget Alliance, we helped craft this year’s City of San Diego People’s Budget and created The Center’s own budget priorities.

In the past six months, we have met with all nine Councilmembers, communicating our priorities for increasing housing resources, reimagining public safety, and creating an equitable budget. Some of The Center’s priorities, like funding Emergency Rental Assistance, have already been achieved. After Mayor Todd Gloria released his FY22 Proposed Budget in April, we reached out to share our concerns for an underfunded Libraries Department  - and the advocacy of our coalition partners, our supporters, and residents across San Diego worked. In May, Mayor Gloria released his May Revise which included a fully-funded Libraries Department. We never underestimate the power of community advocacy and thank our community members for making their voices heard!
Throughout this year, The Center has been engaging its supporters and providing workshops to better understand the budget. As we near the end of this budget cycle, there are still critical services that are underfunded and places in the budget that should be reallocated to meet this urgent need. The role of the City Council is to determine whether or not modifications to the Proposed Budget are necessary and make the changes they deem necessary. That is why The Center is requesting the Council support reallocating $10 million from the SDPD overtime budget and investing it in resources to create a pilot program to provide trauma-informed first responders (instead of law enforcement) to local emergencies involving unarmed San Diegans experiencing mental health crises. Mental health professionals who are trained in de-escalation and harm reduction techniques are the best first responders for mental health crises, substance abuse, and people experiencing homelessness. Reimaging public safety means just that, and having mental health providers be first responders to mental health crises is the best place to start.
The City Council will be holding its final meeting to discuss the budget on Monday June 14th. If you’d like to learn how you can call in and share your ideas for the budget, please reach out to
Join us for opportunities, events, trainings, discussion & support groups, and more. Please visit our website, visit The Center's Facebook page, or call us at 619.800.4252 from 9am - 4pm or 619.800.4216 from 4pm - 9pm to find the right one for you. Below find just some of The Center's offerings:
We are hiring! The Center is launching a Black Services Program within the next few months, and are taking applications for a Black Services Program Coordinator to join the team. If you, or someone you know, is interested in learning more about the position, please review our job posting here.
Covered California has officially launched a new special-enrollment period to allow Californians to benefit from lower health insurance premiums-- no matter their income level. This new special enrollment period runs through December 31, 2021!  Many Californians will be able to get a quality, name-brand health plan for as little as $1 per month or richer benefits for less than $100 per month, but only if they sign up for health coverage through Covered California. To learn more, call (800) 300-1506 or visit
The Center is one of San Diego’s most exciting places to work, with staff renowned for dynamic and creative teamwork, professionalism, and unparalleled heart and dedication. We offer employees an amazing environment where community building, compassion, and care are uniquely combined with an insistent striving toward excellence and best practices. Check out our job listings. 
We make it easy to share The Center's weekly E-News - just click this link and forward to a friend! If your friends would like to sign up to stay informed, they can sign up here:
If you are in crisis or considering suicide, you are not alone.
There are resources and help available for you:
  • Trans Lifeline: 1.877.565.8860 - For trans or nonbinary folx in the US
  • Trevor Project Lifeline: 1.866.488.7386 - For LGBT youth (18-24)
  • National Suicide Hotline: 1.800.273.8255 - For all ages & identities
  • San Diego Access and Crisis Line: 1.888.724.7240 - Free suicide prevention/intervention hotline in San Diego County
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