Outloud North Bay moves to bigger location, as more youth flock to LGBTQ safe space
Group is working at becoming an official charity, and has created a board of directors, bylaws, policies
A group that provides safe space for North Bay's queer and trans youth says it's moving into a bigger home.
Outloud North Bay says demand for more room has increased, despite a challenging pandemic year, operator Seth Compton says.
In March of 2020 he signed a lease for a small apartment-sized safe space for LGBTQ kids in the community.
"Two weeks later, the entire country was shut down for COVID, but that didn't stop me. I continued to plug away at the space and then we were able to have a soft open," he said.
"In June, we saw some kids come out and then when things were opened up a little bit more throughout the summer, we kind of tripled the numbers."
Once school resumed in September, that space became too small.
"I had 112 members and not enough space for everybody. So in November we looked into an alternate location and I was able to secure a 4,000 square foot old nightclub that wasn't being used," Compton said.
"So we've been renovating that space over the last month and we just moved in Saturday. We're getting prepared to open up that space over the next couple of days."
Compton says he never anticipated that kind of need. But the pandemic appears to have intensified it.
"Nobody knew where to go, you know? I was offering services ... helping kids with their identity and mental health and wellbeing, [and] everything else was shut down. So some organizations that do help kids in the community were only offering virtual help at that point," he said.
"Because we were a physical location, we remained open most of the time. Kids were coming and they just needed that space."
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Youth are even travelling from areas up to two hours away to attend Outloud North Bay.
"And it's not that we just support LGBTQ kids. For every student that comes in that identifies that way, they have 10 straight friends or allies," Compton said.
"So they come in and enjoy the space and the programs that we offer. Every kid out there is dealing with something, right? So we try to be very inclusive and do what we can to support the kids entirely across the board."
Compton says people tell him that when they walk through the front doors, "it's like getting a big, gigantic hug."
Outloud North Bay is by volunteers and Compton's family.
"We've put a lot of love and dedication into this space. So, it's that feeling of just being unconditionally loved by people under one roof," he said.
"It doesn't matter what colour you are, it doesn't matter how you identify, it doesn't matter where you come from. That feeling of unconditional friendship, love, attention, everything that a kid requires, is what you feel the minute you walk through the doors."
The group is working at becoming an official charity, and has created a board of directors, bylaws, policies, and procedures.
"The idea is to have our community support the space so that I'm not completely funding the entire program by myself, which I have been doing for the last year," Compton said.
"When I look at some of the kids who started to come in January or in June of last year [and see] where they are now, you wouldn't believe the changes in some of the kids. And for me, that's what the space is all about."
With files from Sam Juric