Why the Los Angeles LGBT Center is one of the best in the world

The LA LGBT Center's McDonald/Wright Buiilding, its former headquarter and now home to it health services
The LA LGBT Center’s McDonald/Wright Buiilding, its former headquarter and now home to it health services (Photo: LA LGBT Center)

The Los Angeles LGBT Center is one of the biggest and most well-respected LGBT Centers in the world. It provides a meeting point for literally thousands of LGBTQ people across Los Angeles and provides a wide range of services – some literally life-saving – to its many users.

Although some activity has had to be restricted because of Covid, the pandemic has also seen the Center once again step up for the people it serves.

Grand opening celebration of the Anita May Rosenstein Campus in 2019 (Photo: Los Angeles LGBT Center)
Grand opening celebration of the Anita May Rosenstein Campus in 2019 (Photo: Los Angeles LGBT Center)

“The Los Angeles LGBT Center remained opened during the pandemic because we have never walked away from our community during tough times, and we will not do so now,” a spokesperson told GayCities.

“We reinvented how we provide some programs and services as well as created new programs and services.”

This has included establishing a CARE Fund (Community Action Response Effort Fund) to ensure the Center’s resources and services are available to those who need them the most.

It also launched the “Hello Club” in which volunteers make phone calls to check on seniors’ well-being, and created multiple Pride Pantries at several Center locations to provide free groceries to those experiencing food insecurity.

Pride Pantry workers at Mi Centro, the Center’s facility in the eastside neighborhood of Boyle Heights in partnership with Latino Equality Alliance (Photo: LA LGBT Center)

It assembled a day-use hangout space at its Village at Ed Gould Plaza for youth experiencing homelessness so they may be fed, use restroom facilities, and charge their mobile phones and equipment.

The organization was originally founded in 1969 as the Gay Community Services Cente by activists Morris Kight and Don Kilhefner, among others. At the time, homosexuality was still a crime.

Making history from the get-go, it was the first non-profit in the US to have the word ‘gay’ in its name. It later evolved into the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, and then the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which today employs over 800 individuals (not to mention the support of over 1,000 volunteers).

The Anita May Rosenstein Campus in Los Angeles
The Anita May Rosenstein Campus (Photo: LA LGBT Center)

It’s also changed location. It began life in a Victorian-era house on Wiltshire Boulevard. It now occupies several locations.

Its main buildings are the two-acre Anita May Rosenstein Campus, 1118 N. McCadden Place, and its former headquarters, the McDonald/Wright Building, 1625 N. Schrader Blvd. There’s also a Trans Wellness Center, a West Hollywood location, and half a dozen other smaller locations.

The Center in WeHo (Photo: LA LGBT Center)
The Center in WeHo (Photo: LA LGBT Center)

Services cover four main areas: Health; Social services and housing; Culture and education; Leadership and advocacy.

In terms of health, it’s the largest provider of LGBT medical and mental health services in the US, including HIV care, STD testing and prevention and additiction recovery services, among many others. It has adapted to also provide telehealth services during the Covid pandemic.

Related: Los Angeles club Oil Can Harry’s closes after more than 50 years of business

One of its most important functions is providing support for LGBT youth. This includes mentoring and help with housing (on any day, there are around 4,000 youth homeless on the streets in LA, and an estimated 40% are LGBTQ).

In fact, its most recent opening was last month. The Michaeljohn Horne & Thomas Eugene Jones Youth Housing is a four-story structure offering 24 supportive housing apartments for those aged 24 and under.

“These apartments will literally change our young residents’ lives. For many of them, this is the first time when they will have a home of their own. For all of them, it means a chance to building a better, brighter future,” said Center CEO Lorri L. Jean in a statement.

It also runs a Senior Services Program, including Triangle Square, the world’s first—and L.A.’s only— affordable housing development for LGBTQ seniors.

It hosts cultural events, exhibitions, and offers somewhere to go and eat and drink. Last year it opened its beautifully stylish Liberation Coffee House (6725 Santa Monica Boulevard). Proceeds go back to helping the Center continue its work, while many of the staff are people who have received skills training from the Center in order to help them find work.

The Liberation Coffee House
The Liberation Coffee House (Photo: LA LGBT Center)

Related: Gay Los Angeles has a super stylish new coffee house

Responding quickly in time of crisis, and listening to what the local LGBTQ community need, is why the LA LGBT Center provide a model for other such centers to follow.

While nightlife venues have served as a safe haven for LGBTQ people for decades, their existence is now being threatened by COVID-19, and they need our help to survive. Make a tax-deductible donation to the GayCities #SaveOurSpaces fund, and we’ll distribute it to LGBTQ bars and clubs struggling across the U.S.

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