By Caitlyn Kautzman
Support for the LGBTQIA+ community has been growing steadily with increased visibility and acceptance from society. Despite this increased community visibility, the amount of support has been relatively limited for San Bernardino County, which is the largest county in the country. This prompted the opening of a new supportive housing shelter in the heart of the city of San Bernardino designed especially for those who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
This shelter was made possible by the non-profit organization Family Assistance Program which has been providing victim services such as advocacy and shelter to those in need in San Bernardino County since 1985.
This new shelter is called Welcome Home and is specifically designed for transitional-age youth (TAY), who are homeless or are at risk for homelessness, and who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. This 90-day housing first program allows individuals to receive housing free of rent while receiving in-house and outsourced support from advocates as well as weekly case management from an on-site case manager.
The case manager of Welcome Home is the person who works one-on-one with the clients to set goals and helps assess needs on a client-to-client basis. CSUSB alumni, Oscar Lobos is the case manager of Welcome Home and felt “called to this line of work” four years prior when he began his advocacy work at a youth shelter.
“I was attracted to helping people. I found that this was my niche. This is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” said Lobos.
Lobos shared that helping in shelters was particularly important to his sense of purpose. He believed Welcome Home gave him a sense of necessity for helping others.
“I found purpose in it. And then when it was presented with LGBT, I just felt this sense of necessity,” said Lobos.
Lobos has always dreamed of opening his own LGBT shelter, so when this opportunity presented itself, he felt as though he was made for the job.
When asked about support for the LGBTQIA+ community that existed prior to the opening of Welcome Home, Lobos claimed there wasn’t much support in sight.
“Support for the community has been far and few,” said Lobos.
Since working at Welcome Home, Lobos has found that his awareness of LGBTQIA+ support has increased.
“My understanding of the support in San Bernardino County has actually become [vaster]. I’m learning that there are more organizations that are LGBT-friendly. They are just kind of hidden and hard to locate,” said Lobos.
Lobos went on to talk about the importance of the shelter’s existence.
“[Welcome Home is] the only LGBT housing in San Bernardino County,” said Lobos.
This program means a lot to Lobos and he takes pride in being able to be such a big part of its existence. At Welcome Home, there is a sense of community, and belonging is something that often is lacking for those in the community.
Lobos summed up the way that Welcome Home can help the community by saying that it allows for a “safe space” and “provides a well of resources for our LGBT community allowing them to thrive and find that sense of community.”
This program and its resources are free to everyone, and inclusion in community activities is encouraged. The goal is to get individuals who come through the program the support necessary to work their way toward an independent life.
Whether it is getting individuals the necessary documentation for independent living, such as state ID cards, social security cards, and birth certificates, or helping them build a resume that will secure them a steady job and income, those at Welcome Home are there to help in any way they can.
This program began its operations just at the end of last year, in December of 2022, and plans to continue operations for many years in advance. While there might not be as many resources available as there should be for the LGBTQIA+ community, Welcome Home and its case manager Oscar Lobos, are making strides in adding to that support for the community.
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