LGBTQ+ Center, Old Louisville
Two Louisville nonprofits announced today that they will open new facilities to serve the LGBTQ+ community in the coming months.
The Louisville Pride Foundation will open an LGBTQ+ Community Center at 1244 South Third Street in the Old Louisville Neighborhood. Sweet Evening Breeze serves LGBTQ+ youth (Ages 18-24 years old) experiencing homelessness and will be setting up shop at 801 Barret Avenue. Both organizations have signed leases and the move-in process slowly started. Early 2022 is the expected date for fully operational facilities.
The Louisville Pride Foundation will be occupying the second and third floor of the building that is currently home to Asia Institute – Crane House.
“The building is perfect for us. It was love at first site,” said Mike Slaton, executive director of the Louisville Pride Foundation. “The space meets all the criteria that the community have identified as being important, and it only needs a little bit of work before it will be ready. We anticipate a phased opening, with limited activity starting very soon, and full operations sometime next year.”
Slaton added that multiple groups and organizations have worked since 2016 or longer to try and get a community center together. The Louisville LGBTQ+ Community Coalition conducted a lot of research, hosted several town halls in 2016, and gathered a lot of input from the community. That process built up interest and momentum for the Center and really showed the desire in the community. But there was no one organization that was really able to step up and own the process.
“I recently found a proposal I wrote back in 2008 titled “Action Plan to Develop an LGBTQ Community Center in Louisville, KY,” Slaton said. “That plan didn’t go anywhere… this has not been a secret 13-year project for me. But it has been something I have cared about for a long time and I’m kind of in shock still that it is finally actually going to happen.
The Center’s initial focus will be three-fold: providing a safe and welcoming place for LGBTQ+ people and their friends, family, and allies to gather; providing space and support for existing LGBTQ+ organizations, and closing the service gap by connecting LGBTQ+ people to existing resource providers. This will be the first LGBTQ+ Community Center in Louisville since the CommTEN Center operated in the 1980’s. The new center does not yet have a permanent name.
Sharing a building with an existing community organization will present opportunities for partnership, and the two organizations are already collaborating to start an Asian American Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ group, supported by a grant from the Prism Foundation.
“We see our two organizations as partners offering a complimentary set of services, programs, and events for the community. We’ll be working together closely, and we think the entire community will benefit from having these two facilities open,” said Slaton.
“Asia Institute – Crane House is so excited to have Louisville Pride Foundation as our new neighbors,” said Joel Buno, executive director of Asia Institute – Crane House. “We look forward to sharing networks and resources for the greater good for both of our underrepresented communities. We have had joint success with our recent Covid-19 Vaccine Drives and hope to plan many more collaborative ventures. Kicking off our Queer and Trans Asian Pacific Islander Initiative with the investment of Oakland California’s Prism Foundation is a great project we look forward to kicking-off with Louisville Pride Foundation.”
Sweet Evening Breeze, Highlands
Sweet Evening Breeze’s new home sits at 801 Barret Ave., in the Highlands Professional Plaza building on the second floor. The new space is large and free-flowing with plenty of office, classroom, and programming space that will allow for individual and group support, while providing plenty of room for support services.
“Sweet Evening Breeze looked for a location for about three years,” said Glenn Martin, executive director of Sweet Evening Breeze. “When I came on as executive director, they thought they had a location within a church in Old Louisville — that fell through.”
Being new to Louisville, Martin said he was very surprised at how difficult it was to find property that wasn’t too expensive. Because of this, SEB backed off finding a building for a while and focused on internal operations, sustainability, and board development.
It is important to note this building will not house people experiencing homelessness, but they will be providing support services, programs, and community outreach. Some of these services will include STI testing, needle syringe exchange, Trans education, mental and emotional support services, and so much more.
“Prior to Sweet Evening Breeze residing in the space, it was formerly used as a dental office so there is a lot of room for creativity as we build out the use for operating,” Martin said. “Like LPF, we will need to update the space a bit, add some furniture, and some of our own finishing touches. Once we make it our own, we will be ready for full operation. Until then, we also expect to open with limited access and programming in the first few months, but will gradually increase to full operation as we get further into the new year.”
SEB and LPF stressed that they are partnering to serve the LGBTQ+ community with impact intentionality. Martin added that he thinks it’s a big milestone for SEB and great milestone for him too because he will be celebrating his work anniversary with a brand new SEB home.
“We discussed the idea of finding a building we both could share, but ultimately we found great locations that met our different needs. For our clients in particular, having a separate location makes it easier to respect their confidentiality and privacy,” Martin said.
The two organizations are both in need of sponsors, donors, and volunteers.
About the organizations:
The Louisville Pride Foundation (LPF) promotes Louisville as one community that celebrates diversity, fosters inclusion for all and embraces the LGBTQA community. The foundation seeks to promote this unity between LGBTQ and straight allies by engaging in a conversation with the broader community about what makes us one while celebrating what makes us different. It is best known for the annual Louisville Pride Festival on Bardstown Road. The festival, which is free and draws 20,000 attendees, was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19.
Sweet Evening Breeze, Inc. is committed to providing affirming shelter and support services to LGBTQ+ youth 18-24 years of age who are experiencing homlessness, including mental and emotional counseling, career and educational coaching, and other programs that go beyond the expectations of a shelter – in providing housing, hope, and healing.
Asia Institute – Crane House (AICH) celebrates and brings to life the cultural diversity of Asia to Kentucky and southern Indiana residents and visitors. AICH provides educational and cultural programs and services to the public and works to increase the capacity of our local Asian communities to share and preserve their heritage. Founded in 1987 as Crane House, The China Institute, Inc. by Helen Lang, the Institute developed into the premier Asian cultural center in mid-America. In 1996, the name was changed to Asia Institute to recognize and enfold all Asian cultures. Asia Institute-Crane House now provides programs on China, Japan, India, Korea, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bhutan, Nepal, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Central Asia.