away and the glitter swept up, what more is there to the organization responsible for one of the oldest LGBTQ parades in the nation? A lot! The rollicking parade may indeed be its annual highlight, but this 501(c)(3) comprised of LGBTQ and allied community leaders is dedicated to advancing unity, visibility, and self-esteem in the rainbow community 365 days a year. They do it by hosting mini Pride celebrations, game nights, book discussions, and more to get queer folks active and interacting with their community beyond the October celebration. To be clear, the Pride festival and parade — now in its 48th year — is no small undertaking. After all, the event draws 300,000+ LGBTQ men, women, and allies to the city, pumping millions into the city each fall. But times are changing, and organizers are broadening their focus to address evolving community needs. Originally, offerings were centered solely on the Pride celebration, but the 43-member committee recognizes that LGBTQ men and women are evolving, their needs and interests becoming more sophisticated and diverse. The group has responded with a multi-year strategy that focuses on ways to expand. Goals include creating formal partnerships with organizations serving LGBTQ people of color and programming catering to the aging. It’s all in a day’s work for the Atlanta Pride Committee. Who knew it was so much more than one big party! They’re the rainbow-decked moms and dads at the front of the Pride parade and the friendly faces handing out pamphlets to fellow parents grappling with a newly out son or daughter. They’re PFLAG, a decadesold group that brings families together. Founded as Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, the D.C.-based groups outlines its mission as providing a supportive channel for families journeying toward accepting their queer loved one. Their bigger goal, according to the group, is changing attitudes toward gays and lesbians one parent at a time. The grassroots organization — the largest of its kind — has ~200,000 members meeting in some 500 communities from Alaska to Alabama. That includes the Atlanta chapter, as well as regional chapters in areas like Marietta and Macon. PFLAG’s formula for more inclusive families involves equal parts community outreach and one-on-one attention via support groups that meet monthly. In Atlanta, that means queer men and women, allies, and other supporters meet on first Mondays and third Sundays to form a circle and discuss current topics, which can range from how to reconcile religion with gay identity to coping with a high schooler coming out. PFLAG doesn’t begin and end with monthly meetings, however. The Atlanta chapter is also involved in hosting gala dinners, speaking at businesses on LGBTQ issues, and making high-profile appearances. At the national level, the group is an active voice speaking out on issues like family equality and partnering with corporations like Johnson & Johnson to lend a voice to LGBTQ concerns. Back home in Atlanta, PFLAG is making a difference in the lives of everyday parents, like Jennifer Slipakoff. She joined the group in 2014 after her elementary-school aged child came out as trans. “For me,” she tells us, “it’s just a place where people get it.”
August 17, 2018
The year was 1988 and the term HIV had only relatively recently dropped, like a bomb, into the American vocabulary. In Atlanta, later to become ground zero for the epidemic, city leaders were awestruck at how the virus (and later AIDS) could destroy not just bodies but entire lives. They decided to take a stand and Jerusalem House was born. Thirty years later, the non-denominational facility is the city’s oldest and largest provider of permanent housing for low-income and homeless people impacted by HIV and AIDS. They operate under the mantra that “housing is healthcare,” a simple view that having a roof over one’s head can give someone the stability and peace of mind to take better care of themselves and thrive. The organization provides everything from efficiency apartments to substance-abuse counseling and tutoring for children. For its efforts, the high-profile program has earned a variety of awards, including a Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award from Emory University in 2018, and four Wells Fargo outstanding nonprofit awards between 2011 and 2016. It’s leaps and bounds from where the organization started. Back in 1988, things like PrEP were a fantasy. A coalition of Atlanta’s business, religious, civic, and medical community leaders banded together to create a living facility for those being left homeless by AIDS. They named the facility after Jerusalem — “dwelling of peace” — and envisioned a place where people could simply die with dignity. The original facility had room for just five homeless persons living with AIDS. Before long, fundraising allowed them to expand the program, annexing the original house and creating 23 efficiency apartments. Three decades later, advances in medication mean most individuals with HIV/AIDS can live long and healthy lives. But the unique threat homelessness poses to those living with HIV/AIDS is still very real. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, on any given night in 2017, more than 10,000 people living with HIV/ AIDS were sleeping on the street. In Atlanta at least, Jerusalem House is helping change that. Over the years, the program has evolved to include a Family Program, with apartments for families on a campus, and the Scattered Site programs, with hundreds of apartments scattered in complexes across metro Atlanta. The group also offers housing subsidies through its New Horizons program. After all of these years, the Jerusalem House’s core mission remains the same — to help men and women living with HIV/AIDS find a place of solace. Only now instead of helping them die with dignity, Jerusalem House helps them live with pride.