sound. And it is,” Westbrook says. “So it will be a great house. We’ve just got to get off our butts and do it.”
AHF thrift store draws criticism
One development that raised eyebrows while the permitting process dragged on last fall was the opening of a thrift store by the controversial AIDS Healthcare Foundation just blocks from Lost-N-Found Youth’s thrift store. AHF, who have been critical of the use of PrEP, acquired AID Atlanta last year. Westbrook doesn’t mince words when talk turns to the organization.
“AHF is not a good thing. I’ll leave it at that. Anybody can Google it and figure it out. There’s going to be a lot of uprising in Atlanta. It’s already started,” he says, referencing negative reaction on social media once news of the opening of AHF’s thrift store got out.
“AHF has more money than God and they throw their weight around,” Westbrook continues. “But this is a community that’s not going to let that weight carry anything. That’s a small space. In their thrift shops they do offer testing and a pharmacy. I don’t have the need or want to get into a pharmacy. It’s important as the true activist in me that we not duplicate services if there are people in town that are doing things.”
Westbrook cites Lost-N-Found Youth’s partnership with Positive Impact’s MISTER Center, saying, “I send all my kids over there to get tested because I know that they’re going to take care of them. I know that they’re not going to shame them into not having sex.”
Representatives for AHF did not respond with a reply to Westbrook’s comments by press time.
Corporate partners sought
Despite any outside distractions, Lost-NFound Youth is moving forward with a $1 million capital campaign, which will launch April 1, preceded by a groundbreaking ceremony. And while small donations from the community are vital, they aren’t hesitating to go after bigger fish as well.
“We will be going full force. I’ll be hitting up Coke. Home Depot’s already on board. The Southern Company, Georgia Power, Delta—all the bigwigs,” Westbrook says. “It needs to be a house that’s built by the community. Nothing’s more important than that. The kids need to be able to see that this company, this person, this group donated money to build a house that they can be safe in. That speaks volumes to helping them along, to deal with the rejection that they had by their family and by their churches, and to see that it’s not just all gay people—it’s a lot of straight people too.”
Westbrook says the $1 million will give the group just enough to finish the new shelter and provide between one and two years of operating revenue. Two upcoming events—the Thriving Children Annual Gala on April 29 at the Fox Theatre and this June’s East Point Possums show—will be a big part of that. But unlike two years ago, Westbrook isn’t publicly stating a date for the new shelter to open.
“It’s all dependent on that money coming in and the grants.”
March 18, 2016