Office of LGBT Affairs releases COVID-19 resource guide for queer communities

1577
Photo: Courtesy of the Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs Facebook page

The Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs compiled a COVID-19 resource guide made specifically for the city’s LGBTQ+ residents. “Coping during COVID-19, a Resource Guide for Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ Communities” includes information on how to access food, healthcare, housing support, legal services, economic and financial aid, as well as important links and contact info for the Office of LGBT Affairs, the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  

Executive Director Celena Morrison put together the guide with the help of the office’s two fellows, Sayeeda Rashid and Erik Larson. The guide will be updated as resources continue to evolve, Morrison told PGN.  

“As with many crises, the COVID-19 pandemic is having a disproportionate impact in LGBTQ communities,” Morrison said. “We need rapid-response funds for LGBTQ organizations serving those that have been hardest hit. We need to use new methods of outreach when traditional methods are ineffective or inappropriate because of the communities’ social or physical location, vulnerability, or otherwise hidden nature.”

Morrison also told PGN that amid a deluge of information about the coronavirus on various channels, including social media, she found a strong need to provide accurate, specific information targeted toward LGBTQ folks. She underscored the need to provide COVID-19-related info and resources to LGBTQ youth. 

According to the guide, local LGBTQ community food pantries include those provided by Bebashi, MANNA and Mazzoni Center. Healthcare services include City of Philadelphia health centers, all of which are operating under normal hours, Mazzoni Center, Philadelphia FIGHT, Bebashi and Action Wellness. Community members can also find information on evictions, including links to housing counseling agencies, the city’s homeless intake centers and domestic violence hotlines. Some resources for financial assistance during this time include the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) and services provided by the IRS, for example.  

According to a recent report by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, relatively large portions of the LGBTQ community work in industries that have been significantly impacted by the current health crisis. 

The HRC Foundation curated data from the 2018 General Social Survey indicating that 15% of LGBTQ individuals in the U.S. work in the restaurant and foodservice industry, 7.5% work in hospitals, 7% work in elementary in secondary education, 7% of LGBTQ adults work at colleges and universities and 4% of LGBTQ adults work in retail. A 2019 study from the Williams Institute found that LGBTQ people in the U.S. experience poverty at a rate of 21.6%, compared to a 15.7% rate among the straight/cisgender population. 

In addition to resources for basic needs and abuse prevention, the resource guide provides information on methods of staying connected during the pandemic, including free and reduced services from Comcast and Verizon, wifi and other internet services from nonprofits like Human-I-T, digital resources from the Free Library and virtual communication assets provided by the William Way LGBT Community Center, such as access to Zoom accounts. 

“It’s great that the Office of LGBT Affairs has put [the information] into one document,” said William Way Executive Director Chris Bartlett. Bartlett also serves on the Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs, a volunteer body that formed in 2017 to help the Mayor’s Office tackle important issues facing Philadelphia LGBTQ communities, and serves as a support system to the Office of LGBT Affairs. 

“As an LGBT commission that thinks about what’s needed city-wide at a time when we can’t go out into the community, that is one thing we can do –– provide a guide,” he continued. “We’re also looking at providing online town halls and other venues for people to come together and share information and ask for help.” 

Information and links to the LGBTQ resource guide can found here: https://www.phila.gov/2020-04-28-covid-19-resources-for-the-lgbtq-community/ 

The guide can be accessed directly via Google Docs at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1K1j4XuF5HbeHFNB3zD6zoujPfhWWAMnxHVv15RSp9fM/edit

Ask questions, get answers about COVID-19