New Haven Pride Center Expands Reach During Pandemic

The LGBTQ community hub connects people to resources and each other.

During a year of massive disruption, New Haven Pride Center has been busier and more vital than ever. The small nonprofit has been a beacon for the LGBTQ community in Greater New Haven and beyond, bringing people together for much needed human connections during a time of social isolation.

“COVID, while horrible, has taught us about the power of the center. If you work hard and do good for the folks you are trying to serve, then you are going to make the right decisions and do the right thing for the community,” said Executive Director Patrick Dunn.

The New Haven Pride Center Team pivoted to a virtual environment during 2020.

When COVID-19 struck, the center experienced an increased number calls for mental health and other services like connections to food, affordable housing and other basic needs. The virtual environment opened more access points for people, particularly the youth, to reach the center through social media. Since True Colors in Hartford closed in early 2021, Dunn said the center has received increasing contacts from young people in distress from around the state.

LatinX Program Officer Max Cisneros helps with food distribution

“The COVID -19 pandemic has been hard on everyone, but especially on the LGBTQ community,” said Dunn. “Many of us spend 15 to 20 years of our lives wondering if our parents are going to love us. A lot of us who live alone rely on social interactions to stabilize our mental health.”

Supported in part by two grants totaling $50,000 from the Greater New Haven COVID-19 Community Fund, the center provided more than 1000 hours of case management, which included referrals to mental health services. It also distributed food to 175 households on a weekly basis during the summer of 2020.

A lot of us who live alone rely on social interactions to stabilize our mental health.”

Patrick Dunn, New Haven Pride Center Executive Director

The arts and cultural programs moved online and brought people together for community and healing. Using a $20,000 general operating support grant from The Community Foundation, the center expanded and diversified its offerings. It hosted more than 120 online arts and culture events, attracting over 30,000 views of its content cross platforms including Facebook, YouTube and Twitch TV. Seventy-five percent of the featured artists and speakers identified as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), according to Dunn.

Performance artist Tia Lynn "Bubblicious" Waters prepares to perform virtually as part of the Center's "Celebrating Queer Black Artists" program on the first day of PRIDE New Haven Virtual.

“The move to virtual programming was a boon for the Center, allowing us to reach an audience beyond the Greater New Haven area, across the state and even the country," Dunn said.

The New Haven Pride Center was well positioned to respond effectively during COVID-19 due to several years of remarkable growth. An all-volunteer organization for most of its history, the center hired Dunn as its first paid employee and executive director in 2017. Under Dunn’s leadership, the center has grown its annual budget from $35,000 to $500,000, and now has nine employees staffing a full complement of case management services (offered in both Spanish and English), arts and event programming.

Did You Know?

According to a New Haven Pride Center survey in 2020, 59% of LGBTQ+ respondents said they were already experiencing or approaching food insecurity as a result of COVID-19.