Diversity House: First LGBT focused youth homeless residential program in Louisiana

 

Diversity House 2

First LGBT focused youth homeless residential program in Louisiana

 

Diversity House, the first transitional living facility with a focus on LGBT homeless youth in Louisiana, opened in February of 2016. The residential program provides individuals between the ages of 16 and 21 with 24/7 case management, which includes housing, job placement, education and counseling.

 

Diversity House is the latest program developed by Youth Oasis, a Baton Rouge nonprofit specializing in providing support services to at-risk youth. Youth Oasis also runs a Children’s Shelter that operates as an emergency shelter for at-risk youth between the ages of 10 and 17.

 

LGBT homeless youth represent up to 40 percent of all young people experiencing homelessness, even though only 7 percent of the entire American youth population identifies as LGBT. These disproportionate statistics combined with the lack of services for LGBT youth throughout Louisiana served as the inspiration for Diversity House.

 

“We discovered this need and realized it fell in the scope of our mission of providing support services to at-risk youth,” said Rafael de Castro, Youth Oasis Executive Director. “It was really an easy decision to open Diversity House. We are very excited not only for this opening but also for the coming years as we work to expand the services we provide to all at-risk youth throughout Louisiana.”

 

Unlike the Children’s Shelter, where the children are supervised 24/7 in dorm style rooms, Diversity House occupants live in apartments and have more autonomy in their movements. With a new building and a growing brand presence, Diversity House is truly groundbreaking in nature.

 

About Diversity House: 

Diversity House is the first transitional living facility in Louisiana with a focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) homeless youth. Diversity House is a service provider and an advocate for LGBT homeless youth with a mission to provide transitional housing, intensive case management and supportive services in order to enhance the health, wellness and cultural competency of LGBT youth through education and youth development.

Guest Post: How Could Tobacco Companies Be Targeting You?

Smoke Free

Smoking remains the single largest cause of preventable death in the U.S. Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the U.S., including 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Furthermore, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community smoking rates are among the highest of all subgroups. This is due to several factors. The tobacco companies were one of the first Fortune 500 companies to identify the opportunity to target the LGBT community by utilizing images in their ads that resonate with the lifestyle, behaviors, and desires of that population. The tobacco companies were also among the first to adjust their company hiring practices and policies, to include same sex partner benefits and sponsor pride events. In turn, tobacco companies sought a new wave of high risk smokers to market its deadly and harmful products and hook new users as part of their marketing strategies.

There is a growing movement throughout the state of Louisiana of businesses, cities, and parishes choosing to become 100% smoke-free. As a statewide, non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating tobacco use and educating communities on the dangers of secondhand smoke, the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living (TFL) and the Healthier Air For All campaign work to create awareness of the dangers of these substances. Most importantly, the value of 100% smoke-free environments for all employees in every industry cannot be understated – our community should work toward health for ALL.

There are numerous free services available for individuals wishing to quit smoking like the Louisiana Tobacco Quitline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW, which is a 24 hour, confidential and free tobacco cessation helpline that links people who want to quit using tobacco with trained cessation specialists who create an individualize plan to quit.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

  • In 2013, the prevalence of current cigarette smoking among lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals was 26.6%, compared with 17.6% among heterosexual/straight individuals (1)
  • LGBT persons experience stigma, discrimination and other stressors that increase the likelihood of smoking (1)
  • Cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, with more than 41,000 of these deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke (2)
  • In 2013, an estimated 17.8% (42.1 million) U.S. adults were current cigarette smokers. Of these, 76.9% (32.4 million) smoked every day, and 23.1% (9.7 million) smoked some days. (3)

There are many ways Louisianans can help protect all our citizens from secondhand smoke exposure. Visit the Healthier Air For All website to get involved by signing up for text or email alerts about smoke-free events; signing the petition to support the movement to make all public places smoke-free in Louisiana and join others throughout Baton Rouge who are advancing the movement towards a smoke-free Louisiana by volunteering for the effort.

Please visit healthierairforall.org for additional information or contact the TFL Regional Manager Quanda Charles at qcharles@lphi.org.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults—United States, 2005–2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2014;63(47):1108–12 [accessed 2015 Mar 26].
  2. S. Department of Health and Human Services.The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014 [accessed 2015 Mar 26].
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults—United States, 2005–2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2014;63(47):1108–12 [accessed 2015 Mar 26].

Family and Medical Leave for Louisiana Same-Sex Spouses

Today, the Department of Labor issued a new rule extending the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to married same-sex spouses all over the country, including Louisiana. The new rule allows employees to take unpaid leave to care for their same-sex spouse regardless of which state they live in so long as their wedding was performed in a state that recognizes such marriage. This “place of celebration” standard means that although Louisiana does not currently recognize same-sex marriages, same-sex couples in Louisiana who were validly married in a state that does recognize marriage equality are now covered under FMLA.

Emily Hecht-McGowan, Director of Public Policy for the Family Equality Council released this statement summarizing the import of today’s new rule:

The Family and Medical Leave Act is the only federal law helping Americans balance the demands of both work and family. Since its passage in 1993, FMLA leave has been used more than 200 million times but until today, it was not fully accessible to LGBTQ workers. The Department of Labor has done an outstanding job of ensuring full and fair implementation of the Windsor decision and this final rule is a critical step in ensuring LGBTQ workers can care for themselves and their spouses – regardless of where in the country they live – without jeopardizing their jobs or economic security.

For more information on how the expansion of FMLA to same-sex spouses may affect your family, please visit the Family Equality Council’s website, which provides answers to a number of frequently asked questions about FMLA, including:

WHAT EMPLOYERS ARE COVERED UNDER THE FMLA?

FMLA applies to all public employers and private employers who employ 50 or more workers.

HOW MUCH LEAVE CAN I TAKE UNDER FMLA?

FMLA allows for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I CAN TAKE FMLA?

Employees are eligible to take FMLA if they have worked for their employer for at least 12 months, have worked for at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months, and have worked at a location where the employer, within 75 miles, has employed at least 50 employees.

The Family Equality Council has prepared a one-page summary of today’s development, as has the Department of Labor (which maintains its own FMLA FAQ page).

Help us build the Baton Rouge LGBT Wedding Directory!

br-lgbt-wedding-directory

Like many, Capital City Alliance is cautiously optimistic that marriage equality will come to Louisiana sometime soon. When that day arrives, we want the Baton Rouge LGBT community to be able to declare their love and commitment without fear that the people they want to hire to make their day special will refuse to serve them. To help ensure this, we are in the process of building an inclusive directory of wedding vendors who are happy and willing to serve our community.

We have already identified dozens of vendors who are looking forward to providing their services to the LGBT community, but we need your help to find them all. If you know a vendor, let us know so we can contact them. If you are a photographer, wedding planner, DJ or other wedding vendor, we want to hear from you, too!

Nominate a vendor now!

The Baton Rouge LGBT Wedding Directory is just one of many projects CCA is committed to providing. If you value the work we do to promote, improve, and engage the Baton Rouge LGBT community, please consider supporting us today.

Louisiana Loves: Making Marriage Equality History

Capital City Alliance and Equality Louisiana are very proud to announce a brand new campaign called Louisiana Loves! featuring LGBTQ couples across Louisiana!

The purpose of Louisiana Loves is to highlight real LGBTQ Louisianians who have been denied the freedom to marry the person they love. The campaign will feature 50 selected Louisiana LGBTQ couples through photo shoots, video interviews and a commemorative book to celebrate the day on which marriage equality is achieved in Louisiana.

We are looking for couples from all around the state and from diverse backgrounds and experiences to be a part of this project. The photo shoot will take place in Baton Rouge on March 22, and more details will be announced in the coming weeks.

If you and your partner are interested in being one of the 50 couples in the Louisiana Loves campaign, all you have to do is fill out the interest form!

Please share this link with any of your friends and family who might also be interested. The last day to submit interest forms is March 1, so don’t wait.

Marriage is about committed couples who want to make a lifelong promise to take care of and be responsible for each other. That’s what Louisiana Loves aims to show.

For more information, check out NBC 33’s interview about Louisiana Loves with CCA President Kayla Mulford and Equality Louisiana’s Matthew Patterson.

Community Spotlight: The Elevator Projects and The Walls Project

Each month at our Second Sunday Brunches, CCA spotlights a partner organization or LGBT-friendly business that does great work for the Baton Rouge community!  Our September brunch featured the artistically amazing Elevator Projects and Walls Project, two organizations that CCA is lucky enough to work with on a regular basis.  Both organizations have been proud supporters of CCA and we are thrilled to highlight the incredible work they do.  Our Board President Kayla Mulford recently sat down with Raina Wirta, Creative Director for the Elevator Projects and Casey Phillips, Executive Director of the Walls Project to discuss the missions of both organizations and the work that they are doing in the Baton Rouge community and beyond.  Watch and share both videos below!

 

We’ve got spirit, how ’bout you?

Geaux purple for #spiritdayOn October 16, 2014, join CCA, GLAAD and millions of Americans who will wear purple on Spirit Day in a stand against bullying and in support of LGBT youth. Wearing purple on October 16 is a simple way to show the world that you stand by these courageous young people and a simple way to stand UP to the bullies.

What is Spirit Day?

Spirit Day began in 2010 as a way to show support for LGBT youth and take a stand against bullying. Following a string of high-profile suicide deaths of gay teens, GLAAD worked to involve millions of teachers, workplaces, celebrities, media outlets and students in going purple on social media or wearing purple, a color that symbolizes spirit on the rainbow flag. Spirit Day now occurs every year on the third Thursday in October, during National Bullying Prevention Month, and has become the most visible day of support for LGBT youth.

What is CCA doing for Spirit Day?

Why Geauxing Purple, of course!

Spirit Day shirts

Thanks to a generous grant from LUSH Cosmetics, CCA, our partners, educators and community leaders will be Geauxing Purple in their workplaces, around town and at the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board meeting on October 16th. We are also reaching out to local schools, teachers, administrators, media outlets and businesses to encourage them to Geaux Purple as well.

How do I get involved?

Getting involved is easy, and there are so many ways to do it!

How can I support LGBT students?

Visit our Stand Up campaign page for more information on how you can support LGBT students and stand up to bullying

CCA Loves Equality

cca-loves-equality

At Capital City Alliance, we love equality, and we think Baton Rouge does too. That is why we have worked tirelessly with our statewide partner Equality Louisiana to secure equality and dignity for LGBT citizens in Baton Rouge. We are incredibly heartened by the fervor surrounding Councilwomen Marcelle’s ordinance. We are excited that, like countless other cities and a majority of Fortune 500 companies, the Baton Rouge business community has embraced fairness as an essential component of economic development and good citizenship. Moreover, the outpouring of support from grassroots efforts across the community proves Baton Rouge wants reasonable employment, housing, and public accommodations protections for all citizens.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s CityStats poll showing 62% support for the ordinance confirms polling conducted by the Public Policy Research Lab on behalf of CCA and EQLA at the end of last year. Over 91% of respondents in Baton Rouge disapproved of people being evicted or denied housing because they are gay or transgender. Likewise, nearly 89% of Baton Rouge residents said employers other than churches or religious organizations should not be able to fire employees because they are gay or transgender.

This polling data combined with the flood of public support over the last few weeks confirms that Baton Rouge believes in fairness. The people of East Baton Rouge Parish, its businesses, and our community leaders all know that fairness is good for the viability and growth of our city and parish. We believe the Metro Council will not be far behind.

If Councilwomen Marcelle’s ordinance passes this Wednesday, we will work to ensure the law provides full protection for the entire community. We intend to work with all stakeholders in order to ensure the ordinance is effective and fulfills its purpose. To that end, we are committed to working with the Council and community leaders to update the ordinance as necessary to ensure fair and just treatment of all Baton Rouge citizens.

Should the ordinance not receive the support it needs to pass, CCA and EQLA will continue our efforts to pass a local law that protects citizens from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

Out in the Community: CCA Gives Back

One of the most important things to us as an organization is helping the Baton Rouge community. After all the support that we received at Pride Fest and during the Equality March, it was time for CCA to find some ways to give back. This weekend, we’ve been lucky to have a number of opportunities to give our time in the service of others.

National Gay Blood Drive

Friday, July 11th, was the National Gay Blood Drive. Cities across the U.S., including Baton Rouge, organized blood drives to show the impact of the donor ban for gay and bisexual men. In 1983, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned gay and bisexual men from donating blood due to the perception that they were at an increased risk for transmitting HIV. This policy is outdated and perpetuates a discriminatory stereotype about gay and bisexual men. All donated blood is rigorously tested for infectious diseases before it is finally approved for transfusions. Additionally, our nation’s blood supply is at a perpetual emergency shortage. Willing donors should never be turned away, and the donor ban means that hundreds of thousands of pints of blood are lost every year.

National Gay Blood Drive 1 National Gay Blood Drive 2

CCA is outraged about the donor ban and went to the planned event at the United Blood Service on Friday to show our support for those who continue to be discriminated against. We were happy to be there and brave the needles alongside our friends at Equality Louisiana. The Gay Blood Drive worked by having allies donate in place of gay and bisexual men, bringing awareness to the men who are willing to donate their blood but are not allowed to do so. Our board chair donated for one of his best friends and our board secretary donated for her cousin. The event was a powerful demonstration of what is lost when perfectly healthy donors are turned away.

The Walls Project’s Community Paint Day

Saturday, July 12th, we were so excited to help The Walls Project’s Community Paint Day! CCA shares office space with the Walls Project and we are very close organizational allies. They fiercely support the work of CCA, so it was wonderful to have the opportunity to give back to them. The Walls Project works with community partners to create public art installations. Part of that work includes allowing the community to paint large concrete walls in parks, changing them from drab spaces into beautiful works of art. This is precisely the project that we were so excited to join in on Saturday morning.

We met up with our friends from Equality Louisiana early Saturday morning and got right to work! Despite the heat and humidity, we had an unbelievably fun time getting our creative juices flowing. We spent a couple of hours painting with other members of the Baton Rouge community at the Gayosa Park near midcity and left our artistic mark on a gorgeous, collaboratively painted wall. The Baton Rouge Advocate came out and did a phenomenal video on the project, which you can watch here:

The Advocate has posted some terrific pictures from the event on their website, as well!

Second Sunday Brunch

We capped both of those days off with an amazing brunch today!  We had a packed house at Mestizo, as you’ll see from our video below!  Having a space and time each month where we can come together and catch up is so important.

We have to say we are pretty invigorated and inspired by all that we’ve had the opportunity to do with the Baton Rouge community this weekend!  Finding ways to help and connect with others in our city is really what it is all about. Sometimes we get bogged down in our own struggles, but there are always ways to get involved with causes that remind us of all we have to be thankful for and the ways in which we can truly make a difference.

Equality March Reflections

Photo by Amanda Pittman Photography

What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now!

June 28, 2014 was the celebration of our 3rd Annual Louisiana Equality March. The amount of people that march with Capital City Alliance and Equality Louisiana continues to multiply each year. The faces that painted the crowd represented a vast array of LGBTQ organizations, churches, friends, family, and allies from all over the state. This reality needs to resonate in the hearts of our neighbors and in the hearts of our legislators because the people that attended this march are their neighbors and citizens of this state. Every person, by their very presence at the march, said through their actions, “I am not afraid, I believe in equality for all of us, and I want to stand up for what I believe in.” These brave citizens of Louisiana walked on the public streets in the sweltering heat that rested over the capital city, gathered at the Capitol, and hopefully left that evening with less fear in their hearts and a sense of community in their souls.

I remember the morning I attended the first Equality March and became one of these brave, empowered, and changed citizens. I had a terrible fear in my chest—Am I ready for more than close friends and select family members to know? Is it necessary to do something so public when my life is already ok? Will I be treated differently at the work place? Will it hinder my career opportunities?

After I battled through those fears, courage broke through and said, “If you don’t stand up for yourself, who else will? You chose a profession in which you swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and to advocate for the citizens who cannot otherwise advocate for themselves.” Attending the first Equality March back in 2012 planted the seed to my courage in my everyday life. As each day passed, my fear of the fear of consequences from being out and proud continued to diminish and the support from my family, friends, and coworkers grew. For the first time in my life, a true wholehearted unashamed happiness has been achieved, and I can contribute the positive domino effect to my attendance of the Equality March.

Now two years later, I did not just attend as a brave citizen of Louisiana, but as a changed one—a Capital City Alliance volunteer, board member, and Host of the 3rd Annual Louisiana Equality March. The view from the podium was mesmerizing. There were so many brave, passionate, and compassionate people that sat on the steps of the Capitol on Saturday. It resonated with me that to make changes you have to be brave and unite together. At the end of the rally at the Capitol, I didn’t see individuals from subsets of the LGBTQ or Ally communities. The people that gathered on the Capital steps were a united front—hundreds of men and women from different racial, ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds had come together to celebrate each other and fight for the work left to do. What I saw when I looked across the Capitol steps was a crowd of united and brave people with the same song resonating within them, “What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now!”

Photo by Amanda Pittman Photography

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