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Queens Chronicle

Safe Space will expand its LGBT youth services

Nonprofit gets grant for Jamaica help

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Posted: Thursday, December 29, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 2:19 pm, Thu Jan 5, 2012.

Safe Space, a nonprofit agency dedicated to helping at-risk families and children secure a better future, has received a grant that will help expand its services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.

The $120,000 in funds comes from the New York Community Trust, a group that uses donations from city residents to benefit various charitable organizations.

“There are virtually no services for gay teens in Southeast Queens,” said Roderick Jenkins, program officer with the NYCT. “This is a major step forward in giving gay and lesbian youth a place to get help. ... This will give them a safe environment to congregate and grow.”

Safe Space will use the money to hire two new full-time workers — a social worker and a youth specialist — as well as to expand counseling, workshops and other services for LGBT youth at its Jamaica office.

“No component of Safe Space is more critical than investing in the potential and possibilities of our youth,” Christine Molnar, president and CEO of the group said in an email. “This generous New York Community Trust grant award will help us significantly expand our specialized programming.”

The organization helps between 1,500 to 2,000 youth a year, who are between the ages of 13 and 24, and of those about 500 are LGBT. It can be hard for them to cope at school where many of them are bullied because of their gender identity, and at home where some struggle to talk to their families about their sexuality. They “risk daily physical harm because of the openly homophobic climate throughout Southeast Queens,” according to an overview of Safe Space’s services.

The group already has a workshop called “Spectrum,” geared specifically towards LGBT youth. There they create art projects and are encouraged to talk openly about their feelings.

Safe Space, which also has offices in Richmond Hill and Far Rockaway, aims to give LGBT youth a location where they can be themselves and talk about their struggles in a non-judgmental environment. Eventually the group would like to have LGBT specialists available at all of its locations.

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