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Thriving Together: Transforming Southeast Michigan’s LGBTQ+ Community Through Philanthropy

May 30th, 2024 Back to Browse Stories

Ashley Collins
Brand & Marketing Officer

As we celebrate Pride Month in southeast Michigan, I’m reminded of the profound impact philanthropy and the Community Foundation has had on our LGBTQ+ community.

I got married to my husband while working at the Community Foundation, and they threw me a party, complete with cupcakes topped with signs that had cute cartoon characters representing us holding hands and waving little pride signs. It was the first time that I ever felt celebrated and accepted fully at a workplace.

And it’s not just internal support, I’ve seen firsthand how our staff brings together nonprofit leaders, donors, and volunteers who all pour their hearts into making a difference for our community. Their dedication inspires me every day, especially when I see the results of our collective efforts through the HOPE Fund. Steered by passionate LGBTQ+ individuals who truly understand the unique challenges our community faces, the HOPE Fund has been supporting our community for decades.

Reflecting on Real and Urgent Needs 

The needs within our LGBTQ+ community are significant. Research from the Williams Institute at UCLA highlights that LGBTQ+ individuals face unique challenges, including higher rates of poverty, homelessness, and discrimination. These issues are especially pronounced here in Michigan. A study by the Ruth Ellis Center, a Community Foundation grantee partner, revealed that up to 40% of homeless youth in Detroit identify as LGBTQ+. These statistics are not just numbers to us—they represent real people in our community who need our support.

For nearly 25 years, the HOPE Fund has been a beacon of, well, hope, by using endowment and grantmaking to address these needs. Donations to the HOPE Fund are specifically allocated to tackle disparities and foster a more inclusive community for all.

Through the HOPE Fund, we’ve been able to support several critical initiatives: 

  • Homelessness Prevention: One of our main focuses is funding organizations that provide housing, support, and advocacy for LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness. This support is vital because LGBTQ+ youth are disproportionately affected by homelessness due to family rejection and discrimination.
  • Healthcare Access: We recognize that LGBTQ+ individuals often face barriers to accessing healthcare, including discrimination from providers. That’s why we support initiatives that offer LGBTQ+ sensitivity training for healthcare providers, ensuring everyone receives respectful and inclusive care.
  • Education and Advocacy: Another critical area is promoting education and awareness around LGBTQ+ issues. We invest in anti-bullying campaigns in schools and advocacy efforts for LGBTQ+ rights, contributing to a more accepting and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ individuals in Southeast Michigan.

You can see the grants throughout the years here.

Special Focus: The Transgender and Black LGBTQ+ Community 

While the entire LGBTQ+ community needs our support, the transgender community faces particularly severe challenges. Transgender individuals encounter higher rates of unemployment, housing instability, and violence. On employment alone, transgender people are nearly four times more likely to be living on less than $10,000 a year than the general population due to persistent workplace harassment, discrimination, and and biased terminations, all of which create crushing levels of poverty within the community that often leads to homelessness. By supporting organizations like Stand with Trans that provide job training, housing assistance, and legal advocacy for transgender individuals, we can change these dire statistics.

Additionally, we must address the compounded discrimination faced by the Black LGBTQ+ community. These individuals often experience economic insecurity, with 32% living in poverty compared to 23% of the overall LGBTQ+ population, according to the National Black Justice Coalition. They also face significant health disparities and violence. In southeast Michigan, the HOPE Fund supports organizations that focus on intersectional issues, ensuring the specific needs of Black LGBTQ+ individuals are met with culturally competent services and advocacy.

Our Ongoing Commitment 

Despite the progress we’ve made, there’s still a lot work ahead. Continued philanthropic support is essential to meet the ongoing needs of our LGBTQ+ community and sustain the progress we’ve achieved. As we hang our flags, march in parades, and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community this June, let’s remember that our commitment should extend beyond just this month. Here are four ways you can support the LGBTQ+ community outside of attending Pride events:

  • Support Your LGBTQ+ Children: Parents can play a crucial role by offering unconditional love and support to their LGBTQ+ children. Educate yourself about LGBTQ+ issues, listen without judgment, and create a safe and accepting home environment. For more resources on supporting LGBTQ+ children, visit PFLAG Detroit’s website.
  • Advocate for LGBTQ+ Rights: Use your voice to support policies and legislation that protect LGBTQ+ rights. Contact your local representatives, participate in advocacy groups, and raise awareness about important issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community. You can learn more about how to advocate effectively from the ACLU Michigan.
  • Volunteer with LGBTQ+ Organizations: Donate your time to local LGBTQ+ organizations. Whether it’s providing support at a community center, helping with events, or offering your professional skills, your involvement can make a significant impact. Find volunteer opportunities at LGBTDetroit here.
  • Educate Yourself and Others: Take the time to learn about the history and current issues facing the LGBTQ+ community. Share this knowledge with friends, family, and colleagues to foster a more inclusive and understanding society. Ruth Ellis Center has a podcast you can listen to here.
  • Donate: Join a community dedicated to supporting the LGBTQ+ family, friends, and neighbors with a donation to The HOPE Fund. A gift to this fund supports grantmaking today with an eye to the future needs and opportunities of this community.

Together, we can create a more equitable and inclusive southeast Michigan, where everyone can thrive, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Happy Pride, everyone!

Learn more and donate to the HOPE Fund