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As Indy celebrates pride, there's a push for an LGBTQ center in town

Posted at 12:13 AM, Jun 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-19 00:13:55-04

INDIANAPOLIS — While central Indiana's LGBTQ community celebrates pride month, a new report highlights some of the struggles that persist.

The Damien Center and several other groups surveyed closed to 700 self-identifying gay or transgender people about their lives. Of those surveyed, 44 percent reported being harassed, threatened or attacked in the last year. 17 percent reported experiencing homelessness. 20 percent feel depressed most days and 145 of those surveyed say they have tried to take their own lives.

Advocates said a community center dedicated to all things LGBTQ could help address those issues.

In Indianapolis, there are several organizations dedicated to helping the LGBTQ+ community, but right now there's not a centralized place to access those resources.

"An LGBTQ center could fill many of these gaps," Dr. Dustin Nowaskie, of OutCare Health, said. "It could fill a lot of hardships by providing employment and housing services and it could also provide primary and mental health care."

Nowaskie knows a lot about the importance of improving access. He founded OutCare back in 2015.

"I think most people would be surprised that there are a lot of LGBTQ organizations within Indianapolis and central Indiana but a lot of them weren't talking to one another," Nowaskie said.

OutCare linked all those organizations and now it's turned into a nationwide database for LGBTQ folks to find doctors and other professionals and organizations that can meet their specific needs, much like an LGBTQ community center would do here in Indy.

"For me, the center kind of embodies OutCare in a physical space, so it's nice that we're a partner and we're absolutely happy to be a part of this group and provide our services," Nowaskie said.

"At IYG, we serve youth between the ages of 12 to 20 and when those youth age out right now, there's really no place for them to go except to the bars," Chris Paulsen, executive director of the Indiana Youth Group, said.

That's just one of the reasons Indianapolis needs an LGBTQ center, Paulsen said.

"We don't want to age our youth out into the bars," Paulsen said. "They need a safe space they can go, not based around alcohol, a place where they can network and receive services that they desperately need."

Nowaskie and Paulsen are hopeful the community-at-large will see all these organizations coming together and choose to support this cause.

"A city the size of Indianapolis should definitely have an LGBTQ center," Paulsen said.

"I hope that organizations that want to be a part of this monumental feat, if they can contribute in any way and be a part of the conversation, I think that can go a long way," Nowaskie said.