Story and video by Lawson Martin. Photos by Dallas Hope Charities.
Dallas Doing Good has had the privilege of partnering with the Communities Foundation of Texas for North Texas Giving Day over the past few years, but this year, we are doing it Texas BIG. It is the 15th anniversary of the largest community giving event in the nation, so we have selected 15 organizations to highlight leading up to Giving Day on September 21. Early giving kicked off on September 1.
In a steadfast commitment to change and inclusivity, a Dallas nonprofit embarks on a mission to create a brighter future for the LGBTQIA+ community by tackling adversity, fostering hope, and extending a helping hand to those in need.
Dallas Hope Charities is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to supporting the city’s LGBTQ+ youth and adults who are at risk for homelessness by providing them with a safe and inclusive environment. The nonprofit hosts several programs in Dallas that further their mission of providing “hope for all.”
The nonprofit operates the Dallas Hope Center, a transitional living center and extension program for LGBTQ+ individuals who are homeless and between the ages of 18 and 24. Individuals can stay in the house for a year while the organization addresses the challenges these individuals face, such as conduct disorders, post-traumatic stress, and suicidal behavior.
“While they’re at the center, we try to work with them to figure out what they want to do long-term once they leave the house,” says Sidney Yerger, Dallas Hope Charities’ outreach and education engagement manager. “And then our Hope Center manager works to connect them with those services to make it happen.”
For example, some young adults want to get their GED, so Dallas Hope Charities provides them with tutors to help them succeed.
“Some folks need the opportunity to save money, so we push them to do that and provide them with assistance,” Sidney says.
At the Dallas Hope Center, therapy services are free for all residents. The organization also partners with Abounding Prosperity, Inc. to provide the residents with regular STI testing.
“We try to make it a catch-all service for them and make sure they feel at home,” Sidney says.
Every resident that stays at the Dallas Hope Center receives a Worthy Bag. These bags include items that encourage independence and self-expression, including backpacks, suitcases, bedding, bathroom essentials, laundry items, study materials, and more.
In addition to the Dallas Hope Center, the organization launched the Collective Hope Coalition in June 2020. This initiative has the goal of improving all aspects of life for LGBTQ+ individuals in the Dallas area by working with local LGBTQ+ affirming service providers.
Dallas Hope Charities collaborates with the Dallas Police Department through the Safe Place program to raise awareness and education about hate crimes and other issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community. This partnership aims to create a safe environment for LGBTQ+ individuals by bringing together the community, law enforcement, businesses, social organizations, and educational institutions.
To do this, leaders at Dallas Hope Charities ask local businesses if they’d like to participate in the Safe Place program.
“If they say yes, then that business is pledging to put the Safe Place sticker in a visible location so that customers and anybody walking by can see it,” Sidney says. “If someone does see it and they come into the building saying, ‘Hey, I’ve been assaulted’ or ‘I need help escaping a domestic violence situation,’ then whoever’s on staff at that business will let that person stay in the building and offer a safe place for them.”
The business will then call the Dallas Police Department so they can assist.
“We also know that sometimes there is a need for individuals to have a place of reprieve when thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation are happening while help is on the way,” Dallas Hope Charities writes on its website. “The program helps to increase the confidence for victims to report crimes and to know they will be treated with respect, dignity, and care from the Safe Place locations and first responders.”
“Over the past year, we have been trying to incentivize the program further so it’s not just a sticker,” Sidney says.
To do that, Dallas Hope Charities has created a map on its website that shows addresses of the registered Safe Places in the Dallas area. Any business can register as a Safe Place free of charge.
To combat homophobia and increase understanding of LGBTQ+ identities and issues, Dallas Hope Charities is developing Hopeful Discussions, a series designed to promote inclusivity and education in the community.
“The theory behind Hopeful Discussions is that we teach people what it means to be LGBTQ+ and give folks a space to ask questions regarding topics they might not understand,” Sidney says.
Right now, Hopeful Discussions features three workshops available to the public called Intro to LGBTQIA+ Allyship, Supporting LGBTQIA+ Youth, and Creating Inclusive Workspaces.
“I feel like for many people, it’s not that they intentionally want to be hateful towards the LGBTQ+ community. Like many others, they don’t know the vocabulary or understand how to be an ally,” Sidney says.
There are several ways to support Dallas Hope Charities and contribute to its mission of empowering LGBTQ+ youth and creating a more inclusive community. One meaningful approach is volunteering your time and skills, whether participating at the Hope Center, participating in educational workshops, or helping organize events. Donations also play a crucial role in sustaining their initiatives by providing resources for their Worthy Bags or other essential services.
“I’m really passionate about our work,” Sidney says. “I don’t think anyone should be homeless or not have access to food or medical care, things that we consider basic needs because they identify as LGBTQ. We are an organization that genuinely cares about the community we serve.”
Dallas Hope Charities is participating in North Texas Giving Day this year. Click here to donate or learn more.