The Lancaster LGBTQ+ Coalition has a new headquarters that serves as a community hub and offers space for other nonprofits and businesses that serve LGBTQ clients.
“We want everyone to have their basic needs met,” said Karen Foley, the coalition’s executive director. “We have opportunities to make this a space to get help and to learn. This is not just a destination, but a journey.”
A celebration marking the opening of the space at 117 E. Chestnut St. dubbed The Loop was held Sunday in downtown Lancaster. June is LGBTQ Pride Month.
“The opening of The Loop was a day of laughter and celebration of all we have overcome to now being in this space of dignity,” Foley said.
The coalition is working with Pride Painting and Heck Construction to renovate the building and make it fully accessible.
Nine rooms totaling 3,700 square feet will be used as shared co-working space. The coalition has plans to make use of a 5,500-square-foot area available on the top floor of the building.
"Ideally we will reserve 2,500 square feet of the 5,500 square feet space upstairs for an LGBTQ+ retirement facility,” Foley said. “We have our HEART program for affirming subsidized housing because over 45% of Homeless Youth identify as LGBTQ+ and we need elder care facilities because we are 40% more likely to be alone than the straight folks. We need to build silos of collective care for targeted communities."
Patients R Waiting, PhotOle Studio, Latino Empowerment Project, Union Community Care, Move It Studio, Common Wheel, and NAACP are among the community partners the coalition is working with to offer training and services, and to build a supportive system for LGBTQ+ individuals.
“It’s an easy decision for LEP to find opportunities to collaborate with The Loop in a way that’s necessary. We advocate for same things,” said Fran Rodriguez, founder and lead facilitator of Latino Empowerment Project. “We are a collective that is dedicated to centering humanity, celebrating identity, and fighting for justice. I felt like LEP had a responsibility to do this so we can build a framework of abundance for both organizations to expand and provide the many gifts that we offer to people.”
Meanwhile, Foley said the coalition is working with Union Community Care and the coalition’s LGBTQ+ Health Consortium to add a low-cost health clinic “that will be fully welcoming to all … .”
“Our collaborative purpose behind those conversations is how we can continue to grow LGBTQ+ health, gender affirming care, and preventive care both now and in the future,” said Nicole Specht, chief communications officer at Union Community Care. “It’s important to the LGBTQ+ coalition and community, and to us, that we offer a safe and inclusive space where you feel welcome, and most importantly, yourself.”
The Loop is an affirming space where the LGBTQ+ community accesses services provided by the coalition. Services include youth programming, a transgender and nonbinary support group, a library and community space, case management services, legal support, educational opportunities, and a low-cost medical clinic spearheaded by Lancaster LGBTQ+ Health Consortium, a network of comprehensive care providers for the LGBTQ+ community.
“The Loop is a queer-only space, but we have to be connected with others to work towards achieving acceptance and equality in our community,’ Foley said. “What makes us different is that this is an affirming space where we feel safe. We will connect people with a network of organizations and community partners serving LGBTQ individuals. When you visit our space, you'll be affirmed and accepted, celebrated and understood.”
Without a space to meet, the coalition, which launched in November 2019, gathered at the Candy Factory, a co-working space at 342 N. Queen St., where it remained for about a year.
“That was right before the pandemic, but we had to move from there once the pandemic hit since we couldn’t gather, so for the past two years we have been working out of our homes and doing group meetings virtually,” Foley said.
With the opening of The Loop, the coalition has a formal place from which to do business and has resumed in-person and group meetings.
The coalition, which received funding for The Loop from the Lancaster County Community Foundation, the Vanguard Foundation and Steinman Foundation, holds a three-year lease at its new location, Foley said. The Steinman Foundation is a local, independent family foundation funded by the companies that make up Steinman Communications; those companies include LNP Media Group, publisher of LNP | LancasterOnline.
The LGBTQ+ Coalition can be contacted at 717-715-6917 or by messaging the organization using an email form at www.lgbtlancaster.org/.