Friendly City Safe Space expanding, feeling community support
HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - “Something that is often missing especially in rural areas for LGBTQ+ folks is this kind of central community hub,” Friendly City Safe Space Site Director Hyacinth Bellerose said.
In November 2021, the Shenandoah LGBTQ Center created that hub by opening the Friendly City Safe Space in the Ice House in downtown Harrisonburg, and it has seen growing support.
“We have almost 70 volunteers that have gone through a training that we’ve put together we’ve raised over 10-thousand dollars in community funds,” Bellerose said.
They say there are different parts both in-house and out of the space, like a library and free community clothing closet. The staff and volunteers also provide training on topics like mental health and trauma, or simply a place to talk.
“Where people can connect with people they don’t know super well, can make friends or even just have hard conversations that they’re not really able to have outside of this kind of space,” Bellerose explained.
Though Bellerose says there were some challenges like pushback in the beginning, seeing the growth and support from around the Valley is all worth it.
“We’re getting people even from other towns in this region who are getting in touch with us and saying how can I build safe spaces in my region like how can we model what you’ve done and make this kind of replicable,” Bellerose said.
And they hope it’s only the beginning of their story.
“If there was a book written on LGBTQ+ identity and rights in Harrisonburg and in the Shenandoah Valley we would be a chapter of that book at the very least and that’s really exciting and inspiring,” Bellerose said.
Friendly City Safe Space also announced they will be adding a Racial Equity Coordinator, to coordinate new additions like expanded resources offered in languages other than English.
To learn more about Friendly City Safe Space, click here.
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