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Response to:
Funding for LGBT Center of Greater Reading stripped by U.S. House Republicans

The decision eliminates $970,000 that Rep. Chrissy Houlahan had secured for the center.

Michelle Dech, Executive Director, The LGBT Center of Greater Reading
Friday, July 21, 2023

 

This, right here is a prime example of WHY the recent decision to block funding earmarked for the LGBT Center was wrong.

The decision was based in MISINFORMATION, bigotry and discrimination.

We have been fighting the battle to simply be respected as a human being and protected by he SAME basic human rights as the rest of the population shares, forever. It's hard to believe it's 2023 and not 1920.

The LGBT Center of Greater Reading remains committed to the work we set out to do. And, we will continue with our intended plans to expand and enhance our programs and services.

In the meantime we need YOUR help. Get involved, volunteer, share our posts, advocate on our behalf, attend our events, visit the center and learn about our services, donate at www.lgbtcenterofreading.com

We need all of our friends and allies standing beside us in this battle.

"Anyone who knows my journey over the past 2.5 years knows how important The LGBT Center of Greater Reading is to me. The place was my home, a place where everyone cared for me, valued me, a place that made a difference in my life, and where I was able to make a difference for others. It is heartbreaking to hear that the precious funds that help people with shelter, food, counseling, programs, events, and a place to be yourself have been stripped away by a few signatures and votes.

Though I haven't been able to be there nearly as much as I wish I could anymore, it will ALWAYS be my home, the place where I was truly able to become myself. If you're able, please help them out, anyway you can. Donations help, but so do volunteering and allyship. They need all now more than ever."

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Michelle Dech, Executive Director, The LGBT Center of Greater Reading
Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Yesterday, the Congressional House of Representatives reviewed and passed ALL 2,668 Community Funding Projects submitted except for grant funding to three LGBTQ+ community organizations. The LGBT Center of Greater Reading was one of those organizations, along with our friends at William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia and an LGBT organization in MA.


This grant proposal was put forward and vetted through the hard work and collaboration of Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, who uses an independent and nonpartisan board to select Community Funding Projects on behalf of the Pennsylvania 6th Congressional District. The grant request was submitted as set forth in all House of Representative guidelines, and last week the Transportation Subcommittee successfully moved forward with the proposal.


I cannot emphasize strongly enough that this action impacts the entire community of Greater Reading. These funds would have enabled us to provide temporary housing to the LGBTQ+ community in Berks County who are homeless or in need of emergency shelter.


We serve the entire community of Greater Reading/Berks County through critical services like free mental health counseling, support groups, care coordination, safe and inclusive drop-in center (7 days per week), emergency funding, transportation assistance, monthly free warm meals, clothing vouchers, and inclusive training, not to mention our community-building events. Our tiny food and toiletry pantry has served more than 12,000 pounds of food to our community in the last 12 months and many of those served, identified as allies.


We can provide countless examples of instances where the Center supported individuals, brought together diverse groups, those divided by generations, or those who needed a safe place to engage in civil discourse.


WE SERVE ALL who come to our door. Without bias. Without discrimination. We help those who most need it in their times of greatest need.


We stand firm in our assertion that the LGBT Center of Greater Reading is an asset to our community, and we know that our community feels the same. While this decision is damaging and a temporary setback to our project, we are confident our legislators are pursuing all possible options to support us in our mission. 


As family, friends, neighbors and colleagues, we live and work together to make our community the best in Berks for all, and will continue to make a difference to everyone in need. 


I call upon all of you, our allies, our friends, families, neighbors, colleagues – please consider supporting our organization and advocating on our behalf.

As we the LGBT community has found a welcoming "home" in Berks,

we welcome all support in achieving our goal of providing emergency transitional housing for everyone in need. 


To support our mission and goal of creating Transitional Housing for our local LGBT community.

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Reading Eagle / Karen Shuey | Government and policy reporter
Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Nearly $1 million in federal funding that was set to come to the LGBT Center of Greater Reading has been axed by U.S. House Republicans.

The center was earmarked to receive $970,000 for its transitional housing program through the Community Project Funding program, which allows each of the country’s 435 House members to nominate up to 15 projects for federal funding. The LGBT center’s funding was secured by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, a Chester County Democrat who also represents parts of Berks County.

But on Tuesday, Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee voted to strip funding for the center and two other LGBTQ community projects. The move came just weeks after the funding was included in the annual transportation and housing spending bill.

The amendment to defund the projects was pitched by Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma. The amendment to the annual funding bill covering the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development eliminated a total of $3.62 million in funding for the three LGBTQ community centers.

Along with the Reading center, House Republicans also cut $1.8 million in funding for the expansion of a project at William Way Community Center in Philadelphia that provides social services to the LGBTQ community and $850,000 for a Massachusetts organization that is converting a former Boston Public School building into affordable housing units for older Americans in the LGBTQ community.

A devastating impact
Houlahan said Wednesday that she feels the move is an attack on the LGBTQ community.


“The only explanation that I can find as to why this happened is that this is a bigoted response to the LGBTQ community,” she said. “And the reason why I believe that is the case is because there were nearly 3,000 projects that were up for final consideration and, at the very last minute, only three were not funded and all three had LGBTQ in their program titles.”

Houlahan said there is no rational reasoning for cutting funding to the Reading center, adding that her office uses a thorough and nonpartisan selection system for Community Project Funding. That includes using an independent board of community leaders from the 6th District of Pennsylvania.

That board ensures the proposals meet the metrics that have been put in place and ranks the projects they believe are most representative of the community. This year, she said, the office received more than 40 proposals from which 15 were chosen by the independent board for consideration in Washington.

“It’s an enormously thoughtful process that we go through that is very much supported by our community,” she said. “So what’s tragic here is that people who don’t come from our community who decided for whatever reasons that this is a group they would like to target decided on behalf of our community what it was that we most needed. But they don’t know our community.”

Houlahan said she feels it is clear that House Republicans, by axing the funding to the three centers, have shown they are out of touch with the American public.

“It makes me sad because I think something like 70% of the American public supports gay marriage,” she said. “We have really seen that this is not a partisan issue, and so it frustrates me that somehow a very small minority of the Republican Party here in Washington have decided that this is an issue they want to go to battle on.”

Houlahan said the Reading center is exactly the type of community organization that the federal government should be supporting. Having visited it several times, she said she has found it to be a warm and welcoming place that provides an array of much-needed services.

Michelle Dech, executive director of the LGBT Center of Greater Reading, said the loss of such a large chunk of federal money is a temporary setback on the road to expanding those services.

The funding was set to be used to support the search for a new location for the center that would also include space for three to five residential units for transitional housing. It would also allow the center to continue to grow its current programs, which include counseling, care coordination, a food pantry, transportation assistance, clothing vouchers and other services.

“This is definitely a blow to the plan,” she said. “Quite frankly, I think this is an attack on the Berks County community as a whole. We do good work here and we save lives every day so I think the entire community will suffer as a result of this.”

Dech said the decision by some to eliminate its funding feels like part of a larger fight that has been waged to erase the gains the LGBTQ community has made over the last several decades.

“This is absolutely a step backwards,” she said. “It seems like we take two steps forward and three steps back. And, quite frankly, this is what we have been doing our entire lives so you would think in the year 2023 we would be beyond this ridiculous mess.”

Despite the setback, Dech is confident local officials will continue to work on behalf of the center to see what other sources of funding are available. She said the need to provide transitional housing for members of the LGBTQ community is far too important to be put on hold, noting the organization will be moving ahead with the program one way or the other.

“This is just a temporary bump in the road,” she said. “We are pretty resourceful and our community is full of fabulous advocates and allies, so I believe that if we all come together we can continue to enhance our programs.”

GOP opposition

Cole, who offered the amendment cutting the funding for the LGBTQ centers, said he did so to eliminate “problematic” funding and prohibit funds from being used to “discriminate” against employees, according to Politico.

Other House Republicans cast a variety of accusations about the centers.

According to Roll Call, Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland criticized the Greater Reading center for offering services to children as young as 7. He also claimed the Philadelphia center has promoted protests held by the Young Communist League of Philadelphia and that the Massachusetts project discriminates against people who are not part of the LGBT community or allies.

Roll Call reported that Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana said he believes taxpayers should not have to pay for the resources the LGBT Center of Greater Reading offers to transgender individuals.

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