We recently participated in Out! Raleigh to help get the word out that our Community Engagement Center is a place that is open and welcoming to everyone. Hospitality does not include exclusion, and when a disproportionate number of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBT in orientation, we hope to especially offer welcome to the most vulnerable among us.
Right out of college, I pushed overpriced mochas at Starbucks for a living. Several of my co-workers became some of my best friends – one of happened to be gay and one a lesbian. We had the best time when we were scheduled to work together, and after work, we still hung out with each other over countless meals, movies, and conversations.
Through the course of our friendship, I asked many bumbling and probably awkward (and hopefully never offensive) questions about what it was like to be out in a rural-esque Southern suburb halfway between Atlanta and Alabama.
Thankfully, both sets of parents had responded positively and affirmatively when my friends came out to them. They weren’t treated differently, were not kicked out, or abused emotionally, or physically. They weren’t threatened or asked to change. They didn’t feel they had to run away to find acceptance. Thankfully, their parents responded with love.
If the numbers are right, this is not everyone’s story. I met more people than I can count over the course of my several hours at Out! Raleigh who were excited to hear about us, who seemed relieved to know that we were a place where they could come, be themselves, and belong.
We may not be in the business of ending homelessness. We may not be a soup kitchen. Or a shelter with beds. But we ease loneliness with acceptance and relationship; ease hunger with peanut butter and jelly; and ease fatigue with a place to rest. I’m so grateful to be a part of my community.
Related: Always Welcome