A Colorado Springs organization providing support and resources for LGBTQ youth will begin reopening its community center over the next few weeks. Inside Out Youth Services closed the physical location for several months following an increase in threats of violence in the wake of last year's Club Q shooting.
Liss Smith, communications and advocacy director for Inside Out Youth Services, said the organization has always had to prioritize safety, but recent efforts have focused on managing threats from what they said were white supremacist groups.
"With this rising tide of anti-LGBTQ extremism and mass violence, we have to evolve to kind of meet those needs," Smith said. "So we've been working with experts to make sure we're prepared for any threat. We've also been working on security audits, cybersecurity, and basically just making sure we are as secure as humanly possible."
Smith said the organization has continued to offer off-site and virtual drop-in services, things they have had in place since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Inside Out Youth Services still offers free therapy to youth and families, as well. The community center, though, is something Smith said is vital to offering support.
"For some of our young people, they're never going to be accepted at home and they're never gonna be accepted at school. So having this one space where they're accepted without question, without judgment can literally save their lives," Smith said.
The community center will open in phases throughout the month of March, with careful attention to what is shared publicly. The physical address has been removed from Inside Out's website. So too has a section featuring the organization's staff, volunteers and contact information.
"Some of our staff have individually received threats," Smith said, noting the number of threats has diminished in recent months. "We're confident that it's mostly blown over, but the national attention after [Club} Q definitely brought some negative attention to our staff and our organization as well."
Inside Out Youth Services is partnering with several community organizations to assess the needs of the Pikes Peak region's LGBTQ+ community. A confidential, online survey is available to those 18+ through March 15. The survey was not developed in response to the Club Q shooting, but is aimed at helping figure out how best to serve LGBTQIA2+ in the future.
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