New ‘Center South’ Opens Doors

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Signifying the first-ever expansion of the world’s largest LGBT organization into South Los Angeles, on Saturday the Los Angeles LGBT Center opened the doors of Center South, a 5,500-square-foot community space located at 2313 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., near Leimert Park.

Center South champions the organization’s long-term commitment to care for LGBT people living throughout the city.

Children’s Hospital is a Center South partner. (Photo: Roberto Garcia)

“We’re thrilled to be opening Center South, and we’re proud to be doing so with wonderful partners,” said Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean.

“Together, we will serve a wider array of folks here than we are now doing separately. Most importantly, among our areas of focus will be the people who are most vulnerable for new HIV infections: young gay and bisexual Black and Latino men and transgender women of color. We intend for Center South to be an especially welcoming place for them.” 

Center South partners include Bienestar Human Services, Black AIDS Institute, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and The Wall Las Memorias Project.

The grand opening community celebration also included remarks by Mario J. Perez, LA County Department of Public Health–Division of HIV and STD Programs Director, and Los Angeles Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson (Photo: Betsy Martinez)

Center South’s programs and services will be provided free or at a low cost, with a focus on serving the needs of young gay and bisexual men of color, ages 12 to 29. According to the 2017 Los Angeles County Annual HIV Surveillance Report, South Los Angeles had the second highest rate of HIV diagnoses in the county. The rate continues to rise among young Black and Latino gay and bisexual men, and the rate among Black cisgender women are slowly increasing.

Leimert Park has “a thriving community of LGBTQ people of color,” said Councilmember Harris-Dawson. “The Center has provided safe spaces across L.A. for decades, and young Black and Latinx gay and bi (cis)men and women need that kind of support here in their neighborhood.”

Following the ribbon cutting ceremony, guests toured the facility and joined the daylong festivities, which included food, refreshments, giveaways, a resource fair, and entertainment.

Funded in part by the County Department of Public Health, Center South addresses the societal and health needs of LGBT people of color living in South Los Angeles by providing comprehensive programs and services, such as HIV testing; access to PrEP and PEP services; housing case management; mental health services; and a drop-in safe space which can also be used to host community events.

Center South interior

A CyberCenter computer lab comprised of a new printer and eight new Lenovo desktop computers loaded with Office 2016 and Windows 10 software was generously funded by the David Bohnett Foundation.

“L.A. County’s Department of Public Health, Division of HIV and STD Programs (DHSP) has set out to support new and innovative programming to address multiple sociocultural, environmental, and economic challenges faced by young African American and Latino men who have sex with men,” said DHSP Director Mario J. Pérez. “On behalf of the residents of L.A. County, we are proud and pleased to support and welcome the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s new site in Leimert Park to realize this vision. It is our hope and commitment that the Center’s new programming will further advance efforts to stem the tide of HIV and STDs and help eliminate stubbornly persistent health inequalities.”

Crowd gathers on opening day. (Photo: Roberto Garcia)

The four partnering organizations—Bienestar, Black AIDS Institute, Children’s Hospital, and The Wall—will provide auxiliary programs and services to Center South clients, such as linkage to care for HIV testing, PrEP, and PEP; trainings on community organizing and social justice; and workshops to develop creative, impactful projects that educate communities about HIV.

Additionally, local young gay and bisexual Black and Latino men are encouraged to join social networking groups held at Center South, among them: Lit Life (which teaches sexual health and wellness), Positive Images (for those living with HIV), U/O Project (for those ages 16–29); and Continuum Project (which provides peer support to those between the ages of 18 and 65 who are at-risk for HIV).

Center South’s hours of operations are Monday thru Friday from 10 a.m.–7 p.m. In addition to Center South, the Los Angeles LGBT Center owns and/or manages nine other facilities throughout Los Angeles, among them: the flagship Anita May Rosenstein Campus; the McDonald/Wright Building; The Village at Ed Gould Plaza; Triangle Square; Center WeHo; and the partnership facilities of Mi Centro and the Trans Wellness Center.

“Today is the realization of a dream of many years, but this is just the beginning,” said Jean. “By working with our partner organizations and local community leaders, I have no doubt that, together, we will ensure that Center South becomes a vibrant, vital, and beloved part of our South Los Angeles community.”

For more about Center South, follow @lalgbtcenter on social media.

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