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San Diego LGBTQ Center reopens its doors with resources and renovations

The doors are back open at the epicenter of San Diego’s LGBTQ community. The Center in Hillcrest shut down its building in March 2020 because of COVID. KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez has more on lessons learned and what’s new.

The doors are open once again at the epicenter of San Diego’s LGBTQ community.

The Center in Hillcrest shut down its building in March 2020 because of COVID-19. For the past two years, staff members did their best to provide services online when possible.

Food distribution never stopped. In fact, The Center went from serving 600 people a month in 2020 to more than 2,000 even now.

“We are so proud to be a part of this community and continue to grow our power, help those in need, and make a real difference,” said Cara Dessert, CEO of The Center.

Saturday, the Center held its official welcome-back rally with hundreds of people showing up to walk through the front doors again and see thousands of dollars in renovations and improvements.

San Diego LGBT Community Center
Visitors tour the newly renovated San Diego LGBT Community Center in Hillcrest, San Diego, CA, May 14, 2022

A new state-of-the-art heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system was installed to provide the cleanest air to staff and the community. Although the doors are open, current COVID-19 protocols and protections remain in place including a requirement to wear a mask at all times inside the building.

There has always been a belief at The Center that knowledge is power. “We support the LGBTQ community in providing access to education resources here at The Center to make sure they are educated and know how to protect themselves (and) protect their loved ones,” said Gus Hernandez, Senior Director of Communications.

That includes education in sexual health and the services that go with it.

Founded in 1972, The Center is one of the largest LGBTQ community centers in the country and at the heart of this center are the resources and programs to support marginalized people, including immigrants and those living with HIV/AIDS.

San Diego LGBT Community Center
A re-opening celebration, Saturday, at the San Diego LGBT Community Center included a Resources Fair for visitors to find out what's new at the renovated building, San Diego, CA, May 14, 2022

The recent threat of the reversal of Roe vs. Wade and a growing number of attacks on the transgender community makes the mission here even stronger. Dessert said the Center will continue to support the protection of constitutional rights.

“The rights not only of our reproductive community but also the rights of privacy (on) which LGBTQ rights are based on in this country, are at risk.”

The next phase of reopening happens on June 1, when most services will return to in-person meetings by appointment.

The Center also plans to have a significant presence at this year’s San Diego Pride Parade in July. “After the pandemic, we are all looking to connect and to be a part of a community that makes us feel bigger than the individual people that we are,” Dessert said.