Providing a Safe Space for LGBTQ Communities During the Pandemic

Providing a Safe Space for LGBTQ Communities During the Pandemic

They call it ‘The Little Center That Could.’

With only two full-time staffers and a core of dedicated volunteers, the North County LGBTQ Resource Center has been a lifeline for up to 6,500 people each year. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, though, its future was suddenly in doubt.

“The stay-at-home orders came just before several big fundraisers that we rely on to operate,” said Max Disposti, Resource Center’s founder and executive director. “We didn’t know if we would have to shut down.”

A $75,000 grant from The San Diego Foundation-administered San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund has put those fears to rest for now. Virtually all of the grant money has been going to members of LGBTQ communities struggling to pay for basic necessities such as food, rent or utility bills.

The need is pronounced.

LGBTQ communities comprise 5.3% of California’s population, and nearly 1 in 5 LGBTQ residents are raising children, according to the UCLA Williams Institute. Some 20% of those in the community were food insecure before the pandemic hit, and 23% were earning less than $24,000 annually, which comes out to approximately $11.50 per hour.

“The Resource Center has pulled together to provide food and clothing for people in need, assistance for individuals dealing with mental health issues, and support for San Diegans who are housing insecure,” said Marty, 29, a client and volunteer who now lives in San Diego and received financial assistance from the North County LGBTQ Resource Center after the pandemic hit.

Prior to COVID-19, Marty was driving for Uber and Lyft and delivering food for Instacart and Door Dash. When COVID-19 spiked in the region, his income was decimated. Marty explained, “Max and the Resource Center made sure that I had food. He made sure I had face masks.”

Looking out for others and supporting the community is in Max Disposti’s DNA. The Oceanside resident has served on commissions for the City of Oceanside, the Oceanside Mainstreet Association as board member, the Oceanside Library board, and the Oceanside Martin Luther King Civic Award and Scholarship Committee. He also serves on the San Diego County Sheriff LGBTQ Advisory Council and is a California State Senate appointee on the Board of Behavioral Science.  

Max founded the Oceanside-based Resource Center in 2011 and it is the only one of its kind in North County serving the area’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community. Services run the gamut: social and support groups, a substance abuse recovery program, connections to mental health providers, immigration resources, and more. The Resource Center also houses Unicorn Homes for LGBTQ youth with nowhere else to turn for help.

Unicorn Homes provides LGBTQ youth who are homeless or at risk for homelessness – an estimated 40% of homeless youth in California identify as LGBTQ – a safe place to live. “The function is to provide housing stability with an ultimate goal to reunite families and rectify problems whenever possible,” Disposti explained, adding that Unicorn Homes also provides paths to mental health resources, job readiness, life coaching, and independent living skills.

Marty praised those who work and volunteer at the Resource Center for their dedication in helping others, especially amid a crisis that is impacting LGBTQ communities is so many ways.

Support San Diego’s LGBTQ communities impacted by COVID-19 by donating today.