Sexual & Gender Minority Youth Resource Center (SMYRC) officially integrates into New Avenues for Youth

SMYRC, Portland’s Sexual & Gender Minority Youth Resource Center is officially integrating into New Avenues for Youth’s comprehensive programming for foster, at-risk, and homeless youth. The transition, initially beginning as a partnership between Q Center and New Avenues earlier this year when SMYRC moved to New Avenues’ Joyce N. Furman building downtown, builds upon organizational synergy and provides important stability to SMYRC.

SMYRC’s efforts to engage disconnected youth and New Avenues’ vision of every youth having a safe place to call home has created a partnership that now evolves into leveraging resources and coordinating outreach by integrating SMYRC’s staff and services. “It’s been imperative at Q Center to ensure ongoing stability and the best home possible for SMYRC” says interim board member LeAnn Locher. “We believe an LGBTQ youth program should be run by an organization that excels in youth programming, and New Avenues for Youth is a solid, proven and vital community asset to provide just this.”

During this transitional period, New Avenues’ priority is stabilizing SMYRC’s current range of services for LGBTQ youth, including a drop-in space and activities in downtown Portland, support for rural youth as part of Washington County Pride Project, and access to community counseling through a partnership with Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare. New Avenues will also be taking on Bridge 13, SMYRC’s long-standing technical assistance program that trains service providers, educators, and students on how to enhance the safety and accessibility of their services and spaces for LGBTQ individuals.

“LGBTQ youth are among the most vulnerable young people in our community,” says New Avenues for Youth’s Executive Director, Sean Suib. “Integrating SMYRC into New Avenues for Youth’s services will allow us to reach more youth and have a greater impact in preventing youth homelessness by creating better opportunities and outcomes for LGBTQ youth. While we’re aware the program has unmet needs, New Avenues for Youth is committed to providing a permanent home for SMYRC, and we hope the community will wrap around this new alignment of services and help us maximize this opportunity.”

SMYRC was created in 1998 by two youth, Tre Sangrey and Britta Houser. Since that time, SMYRC has found homes with Cascadia Behavioral HealthCare and then Q Center. The stability and focus of New Avenues for Youth is an ideal match for SMYRC, ensuring the important work and services continue and even grow. Stepping up to the plate in 2011 when the space for and future of SMYRC was up in the air, Q Center is grateful we were able to provide a home to SMYRC for the past two-and-a-half years.

Q Center is currently undergoing important stability and transition, and the move of SMYRC to New Avenues for Youth reflects the priorities heard of the community and hard work of the current Q Center staff, interim board of directors, and the commitment of New Avenues for Youth. SMYRC employees, including Micheal Wheatley, Elaina Medina, Nash Jones, Shane Penunuri and Seth Johnstone, are now employees of SMYRC at New Avenues for Youth and while we will miss them here at Q Center, we will be forever touched by their amazing work.