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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.

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