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Supporting our LGBTQ Youth
February 8, 2021

Many of us remember what it was like to be an LGBTQ youth and the unique struggles we faced. Some kept our identity a secret, afraid to lose people we loved, our jobs, our communities. More than a few of us were kicked out of our homes and disowned by our families. We likely did not have a welcoming and affirming space like The Hillcrest and South Bay Youth Centers, to help us along our journey - to meet other people like us, discover ourselves and our voices, to provide resources, to feel welcomed, valued, and supported, and to find belonging in community. Research tells us what we already know and have lived - that LGBTQ youth are underserved and more likely than their straight peers to experience abuse, neglect, bullying, harassment and other victimization. Last year, The Center provided over 8,000 service visits to youth; and we have continued, every day this new year, to provide help and support to our LGBTQ young people. Today I’d like to highlight just a few of The Center’s programs dedicated to helping LGBTQ youth and making a real difference in their lives.
The Center knows that safe, accessible emergency housing is an essential need for LGBTQ youth. As part of our Housing Continuum, The Center offers a program called Safe S.T.A.Y., overnight Emergency Housing for LGBTQ transitional age youth 18-24 that, as of this past weekend, is available seven nights a week! Resources include gender neutral living quarters and restrooms, shower, laundry facilities, clothing, toiletries, as well as an LGBTQ empowering staff and case managers who provide access to resources and referrals, with a focus on locating permanent housing for the youth. If you, or someone you know, is in need of this service, please call us at 619.694.6182.
During COVID-19, our Youth Centers, Hillcrest Youth Center (HYC) and South Bay Youth Center (SBYC), have merged their programming, continuing to make a life-changing difference for LGBTQ youth with dedicated virtual programs and discussion groups, but some youth do not have a safe space in their house to attend Zoom meetings, and they also can be intimidated by strangers in these groups. The Youth Team has pivoted to asking the youth specifically what they need during this time, and have responded to those needs with one-on-one support, care packages, resources, and referrals. Some youth request gender-affirming clothing and makeup; some are navigating family financial issues and want to help their families and siblings by getting a job, so Youth Teams help with resume and cover letter writing, as well as clothing and preparation for job interviews; some youth’s families need food and the Youth Teams deliver food or make trips to grocery stores, 'FaceTiming' with youth for them to choose the foods they want, some youth never having had an opportunity to do that before. They also help parents searching for Behavioral Health Services referrals for youth in crisis, provide contacts with The Center’s Families Program for discussion and support groups, and so much more.

We congratulate SBYC on their upcoming second anniversary, and we look forward to when it is safe for us all to celebrate in person, in community, the incredible work being done for LGBTQ+ youth and families in the South Bay. 

Our LGBTQ youth are our future, we owe them support, love, and the resources they need to flourish and The Center is committed every day to doing just that. 

-Cara Dessert (Pronouns: She/Her/Hers)
Chief Executive Officer
A photo from South Bay Youth Center's opening in 2019
The South Bay Youth Center has faced its challenges since opening its doors two years ago. Both our one-year anniversary and two-year anniversary have taken place during the pandemic and we were unable to celebrate in person the essential support and critical services they provide to LGBTQ youth of South County.
Like all programs of The Center, the South Bay Youth Center quickly pivoted during the Stay-at-Home order to provide youth the support they need and deserve. The past year has shown just how many LGBTQ youth and their families are struggling in the South County. Every day, the Youth Teams work diligently and passionately to create and distribute care packages to these youth. Some of the youth are in unaccepting homes and through The Center’s work of connecting, delivering care packages, fresh groceries, and necessities, many families’ minds have been opened and they have become more supportive.
In honor of the South Bay Youth Center's second anniversary, please consider making a special gift to further the fantastic work and, notably, the minds that are being changed to support an LGBTQ child. Your donation can bring a special smile to LGBTQ youth and their families when they receive a care package that was possible with your support. Thank you and Happy Anniversary, South Bay Youth Center!

Ian Johnson (Pronouns: He/Him/His)
Director of Development
The City of San Diego is seeking community feedback as it goes through a franchise agreement process. A franchise agreement is how the City comes into a contract with a utility provider, like a gas and energy provider, and is what allows the utility to provide power we use in our house and businesses within the City. The franchise agreement impacts how residents of the City of San Diego pay our energy bills, our ability to meet the City’s climate action goals, and the financial well-being of the City of San Diego in the long term.  

Please join Council President Pro Tem Stephen Whitburn, along with the mayor’s staff, for a forum on the franchise agreement where you can provide your feedback on the upcoming Invitation to Bid for the City's gas and electric franchises. A presentation will be given and a Q&A will follow. Choose from sessions: Rebekah Hook-Held (Pronouns: She/Her/Hers)
Chief Public Affairs & Civic Engagement Officer

As the COVID-19 vaccine is becoming more accessible and additional sites are opening, The Centers wants to keep you up to date. On January 23, the County expanded the category for vaccination to those 65+. For phases, information, details on COVID-19 vaccination sites, or to make your appointment, visit the San Diego County website. 

With COVID-19 cases continuing in our region, The Center wants to help you find a testing location if you need one. Click here for a list of testing sites or call 2-1-1. Most do not require an appointment, the test takes 5-10 minutes, with results available within 2-4 days. 

You can help stop the spread of COVID-19 by adding your phone to California’s exposure notification system to get COVID-19 exposure alerts. Visit CA Notify to activate, then keep your Bluetooth on and you will receive alerts if you were in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. Learn more and get started here.

MTS is offering free transit rides for everyone in the region who needs to get to their COVID-19 vaccine appointment location. This includes all vaccination sites in the county including Super Vaccination stations, hospitals, and other community immunization locations!

You only need to show a confirmation email of your vaccine appointment that day - either a printout or on a smartphone - to get on board for free. County-hosted COVID-19 vaccinations sites are currently open for people in all tiers of Phase 1A, including adults 65 and older and healthcare workers. Learn more.

Hearing the need from our community for more designated Black LGBTQ spaces, The Center is re-launching “Let’s Talk Tuesdays” as a standing event! The Center will host this series starting tomorrow, Tuesday, February 9th from 4:30pm - 6:00pm.  For questions, Zoom details, or to schedule an appointment on a different date/time, please contact:
Brave Space is celebrating its one-year anniversary! Last year in February, The Center, in partnership with the Black LGBTQ Coalition, Unity Fellowship Church, and The Gender Phluid Collective, launched this important peer-led discussion group for LGBTQ+ folx of the Black and African diaspora.  Join us on February 20, 2021 from 11am - 12:30pm via Zoom. For information, contact Helen Weldeghiorgis at
The Center, in partnership with 2-1-1, CIE San Diego, DoorDash and United Way, is delivering basic pantry items to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Home deliveries take place on Tuesdays between 3pm-4pm and items include rice, soup, peanut butter, cereal, and more. If you have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in any way, please contact Sarah Merk-Benitez at for more information and to sign up.
As we all continue to stay at home as much as possible, The Center wants you to stay connected. Join in community for discussion and support groups, special programming, and more via Zoom - all tailored for our LGBTQ community. 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 groups. 
If you are behind on your SDG&E bill or have outstanding bills, and you are a CARE or FERA customer, you may be eligible for debt forgiveness through SDG&E’s Arrearage Management Payment (AMP) Plan. This plan offers qualified, current SDG&E customers financial assistance to help reduce past due account balances. AMP is a 12-month payment plan that forgives 1/12 of a participant’s debt after each on-time payment of the current month’s bill. After 12 on-time payments of each current month’s bill, the participant’s debt will be fully forgiven up to a maximum of $8,000. Enrolled participants are protected from disconnection while participating. Find out if you qualify at or call an SDG&E AMP Service Specialist at 1-888-204-3576.

Find out if you qualify for other SDG&E Assistance programs at

Although business customers are not eligible for AMP, we may be able to offer flexible payment arrangements. Call our Business Care Center at 1-800-336-7343 for payment arrangements, energy-saving tips and pricing plan options, or visit
Covered California has established a special-enrollment period from Feb. 1 to May 15 to give Californians more opportunities to sign up for health care coverage, as the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession.

The new special-enrollment period allows uninsured individuals to sign up for coverage without needing to meet the normal qualifying life events, such as recent loss of coverage or moving. Anyone who meets Covered California’s eligibility requirements, which are similar to those in place during the annual open-enrollment period, can sign up for coverage through May 15 and have their coverage begin on the first of the following month. For more information, visit or call Covered California at 1.800.300.1506. You can also get free and confidential assistance in a variety of languages from a certified enroller, or have a certified enroller call them and help you for free.

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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
Copyright © 2021 San Diego LGBT Community Center, All rights reserved.

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