Horizons gives over $400K to 53 LGBT groups amid COVID-19 financial stress

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Horizons Foundation President Roger Doughty said that many Bay Area LGBT nonprofits are struggling amid the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Courtesy Horizons Foundation
Horizons Foundation President Roger Doughty said that many Bay Area LGBT nonprofits are struggling amid the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Courtesy Horizons Foundation  

Horizons Foundation announced April 23 that it is giving almost half a million dollars in grants to 53 Bay Area LGBT groups, just as nonprofits sounded the alarm about the financial fallout from the novel coronavirus outbreak.

As the Bay Area Reporter previously reported, 137 LGBT-serving nonprofits co-signed a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) April 22 asking him to direct federal relief money made available by the CARES Act to them.

Horizons' grants are being provided by its COVID-19 Response Emergency Fund. The fund was started last month, and the $440,000 in grants announced Thursday was described as the "first round" in a news release.

Some $200,000 came from the funds Horizons already had, and further donations totaling $150,000 came from outside contributors. The emergency fund is accepting donations for future grants.

Roger Doughty, a gay man who is the longtime president of Horizons, spoke with the B.A.R. via phone April 23. He compared the effects of the coronavirus outbreak to having "a bomb dropped."

"It's not just (dropped) on our community — it's everywhere," Doughty said. "We are all trying to do what we can do to deal with the new reality.

"The community is going into the same crisis as the rest of society and in all my years in the movement — 30 years — I've never seen so much of an explosion of need, combined with economic damage. The velocity of the change has been absolutely astonishing and it's hurting organizations very, very hard."

Doughty said that the genesis of the fund was in late March, when $200,000 was appropriated to it following a decision by Horizons' board of directors.

"We then used that to solicit funds from our other donors," Doughty said.

Horizons fielded over 80 applications beginning in early April, according to Doughty and the release, and the grants range from between $2,500 and $20,000, according to Curtis Lahaie, the senior manager of communications for Horizons, in an April 23 email to the B.A.R.

Doughty said there were two criteria Horizons used to determine which organizations should get a grant: nonprofits needed to be both in "immediate and severe financial need" and be "responding to needs generated by the COVID pandemic."

Beneficiaries include, but are not limited to, statewide LGBT rights group Equality California; Folsom Street Events, which puts on the eponymous street fair in September and the Up Your Alley fair in July; the San Francisco Community Health Center (referred to by its former name, the Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center, in the release); the GLBT Historical Society; PRC; the Rainbow Community Center of Contra Costa County; the San Francisco LGBT Community Center; the Queer Nightlife Fund; the LGBT Asylum Project; the Spahr Center in Marin County; and the Transgender District in San Francisco (until last month known as the Compton's Transgender Cultural District).

The B.A.R. contacted these organizations and at press time has received responses from seven.

Angel Adeyoha, a queer, nonbinary person who is the interim executive director of Folsom Street Events, said they found out from Horizons' morning news release.

"We applied for it after both the cancellation of How Weird (a South of Market street fair) and Pride, which are early-in-the-year revenue streams for us, so we wouldn't be in hot water financially" Adeyoha said in an April 23 phone call with the B.A.R. "We are honored and grateful to be chosen, among other great organizations, and thankful for the help for Folsom Street Events."

Adeyoha said they don't know yet how much Folsom Street Events received from the grant. According to Horizons' figures released after Adeyoha spoke with the B.A.R., it received $5,000.

Adeyoha told the B.A.R. earlier this week that a decision about both Up Your Alley and the Folsom Street Fair will be made by April 27.

Brett Andrews, a gay man who is president of PRC, stated in an email to the B.A.R. April 23 his organization received $15,000, which was confirmed by Horizons' figures.

"We are very grateful to Horizons Foundation for their commitment to LGBTQ-serving organizations during this time of great challenge for our vulnerable clients," Andrews stated. "Their grant to us and to so many other organizations like ours will help greatly in providing community-wide critical services to those who are most affected by COVID-19."

PRC helps vulnerable adults, including HIV-positive people, with a variety of things such as residential services and workforce advocacy.

Spencer Watson of the Queer Nightlife Fund said that the fund received $5,000, which was confirmed by Horizons' figures. The fund is providing financial support to nightlife workers who have lost income due to stay-at-home orders that shut down bars and nightclubs in mid-March.

Terry Beswick, a gay man who is the executive director of the GLBT Historical Society, thanked Horizons for its support in a statement to the B.A.R. April 23.

"With our museum and archives closed, we're losing a lot of revenue on admissions and memberships, so this emergency grant from Horizons of $7,500 will help us engage with our audiences in creative ways," Beswick stated. "Initially, this funding will support our popular new weekly Fighting Back series on Zoom, where we bring together intergenerational panels of experts to talk about contemporary issues like COVID in a historical context. We've been getting great questions and comments from participants who are stuck at home and sick of Netflix.

"So much funding is going to direct service organizations to tend to our physical health right now, and appropriately so, but I think cultural organizations like ours are helping to tend to people's emotional and intellectual health, which is perhaps equally important," Beswick continued.

The $7,500 amount is confirmed by Horizons' figures.

The San Francisco LGBT Center received $15,000.

"Like millions of people and organizations around the globe, the SF LGBT Center is facing a number of challenges in the face of COVID-19," Dani Siragusa, the center's director of development, wrote in an emailed statement to the B.A.R. April 23. "In addition to an almost overnight transition to virtual services, we are losing a significant portion of our revenue, which is typically generated by our room rentals and our annual soiree.

"This funding will enable us to continue to provide essential services to LGBTQ+ people in San Francisco and help move us towards our goal of keeping our dedicated staff members financially whole," Siragusa continued.

Lance Toma, a gay man who's CEO of the San Francisco Community Health Center, leads an organization that is providing front-line medical care.

"I think it's incredible that Horizons Foundation is stepping up during this unprecedented time to support organizations like ours and so many others, to ensure that LGBTQ individuals are cared for and supported," Toma wrote to the B.A.R. April 23. "These funds will support our onsite efforts at San Francisco Community Health Center focused on providing care and support for trans and gender non-conforming communities and the HIV community of the Tenderloin."

The LGBT Asylum Project, the organization grand marshal for this year's virtual Pride festivities, also thanked Horizons. It netted $10,000.

"The LGBT Asylum Project is very grateful for Horizons Foundation's ongoing support to help LGBTQ asylum seekers especially during this pandemic," Rae Sweet, communications coordinator for the project, stated in an April 27 email.

Doughty said that Horizons is "hoping there will be a second round within the next few weeks."

"We are still actively soliciting contributions to the fund, which will go 100% to these organizations," Doughty said.

Doughty said that queer resilience will help see the community through the coronavirus outbreak.

"Our community has resilience running through our blood," Doughty said. "We are a famously compassionate community that knows how to care for one another, as we have had to do before. What I have seen so far makes me feel more strongly than ever."

Updated, 4/24/20: This article has been updated with additional comments from grantees.

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