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Adolescence can be a difficult time for any kid, but those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender face special challenges. The youth programs at The San Diego LGBT Community Center help by providing a wide range of services to teens and young adults.

Among other services, LGBT teens can take advantage of the Hillcrest Youth Center.

“They need spaces where they can meet one another and feel safe, affirmed, and liberated, spaces that offer connection, education and access to resources,” Sophia Arredondo, the Youth Center’s coordinator, said. “They also need spaces that offer fun activities because they are teenagers, and they want to have positive memories of school, falling in love and exploring their identities.”

The Youth Housing Project on Robinson Avenue is home to many San Diego LGBT teens.

The Youth Center on Robinson Avenue in Hillcrest draws about 300 visits from 14 to 18 year olds monthly. They can use computers, learn how to protect their health and finances and take part in discussion groups.

About 80 percent of the visitors are minorities, and most are low-income. In addition to LGBT teens, The Youth Center also welcomes those who are HIV-positive or questioning their sexuality.

“We do a lot of outreach with the Gay Straight Alliance clubs at local high schools and resource fairs related to high school students,” Arredondo said. “We are also very present at community resource fairs where youth, parents and teachers can find us and get information.”

In addition to the youth center, The San Diego LGBT Community Center’s Sunburst Youth Housing Project offers 23 units to homeless young adults in East Village downtown.

“Each year over 300,000 LGBT youth experience at least one night of homelessness in the United States, and 20 to 40 percent of the homeless youth in America’s urban cities identify as LGBT,” Beth Barnes, chief operating officer at the center, said. “The majority of our Youth Housing Project residents come to us directly from the streets, having lived in cars, parks, canyons or abandoned buildings throughout San Diego County.”

The Youth Housing Project often turns around the lives of its residents, who must be between 18 to 24 years old.

“Over 80 percent of residents leave for a permanent living situation and 60 percent of our residents are employed despite the current economic conditions,” Barnes said.

What’s next?

“This fall we are beginning a new Hillcrest Youth Center Advisory Circle called Voices,” Arredondo said. “This is an effort to put programming into the hands of youth. Two volunteers are assigned to each committee in order to provide mentorship.”

In addition, she said, “we have also increased the number of annual events we host, and we are even taking them out into the community because we know it can be hard for youth to come to us.”

To learn more about The Center’s many programs, visit thecentersd.org.

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