Glo Harrisburg recently opened and is is Harrisburg’s first community center created specifically to serve men who have sex with men (MSM) and transwomen of color. Complete with a Youth Advisory Board, Glo provides support and resources LGBTQ neighbors and friends seek. Jonathan L. Branch, Peer Engagement Specialist for GLO, shared more about the organizations mission.
Photo Credit: Pexels
What is the importance of having a community center created specifically to serve men who have sex with men of color (MSM) and transwomen of color?
GLO Hbg: For so long we have had to get services in white spaces from service providers that are sometimes well-intended but often so far removed from our communities they don’t understand or appreciate our specific needs. Now we have a place where our voices and experiences are not only shared but centered so the importance of this center is major! Think before this center was created, before we opened these doors there was no place that people like me or my friends could to go and share a safe space and talk about the things that affect us in our communities and be heard by people that are just like us. Statistics say that 1 out of 2 MSM of color will contract HIV in their lifetime. Twenty-four trans women of color have been murdered since the beginning of this year and that's just the ones we know about. Those numbers are scary; that could be any of my friends. There are young, black MSM who are homeless and couch surfing because they got kicked out of their homes for wanting to live their truth. What we are doing here in little old Harrisburg is providing a safe place for MSM and trans women of color to take off the mask that they have to wear for the world so they can survive. We are here to give hope, peace, understanding and most importantly love.
Photo Credit: Facebook.com/GloHbg
Is GLO an acronym and if so, what does it stand for?
GLO Hbg: GLO is actually not an acronym but that is a question we get asked a lot! A Youth Advisory Board (YAB) member came up with the name during one of our meetings months ago. This was when we were still touring sites with our real estate agent; our community partners were still interviewing candidates, trying to staff the building. We were brainstorming what we would call this thing and he just said, “what about GLOW!” Everyone got quiet for a minute and then it was unanimous--the name fit. A few weeks later we decided to drop the “W” and just use the first three letters. The YAB liked “GLO” for a couple of reasons: the whole idea of shining brightly in darkness really spoke to us, and we use the term when referring to someone coming into their own, becoming more confident and “put together” than before AKA “glow’d up.”
How did you become involved in the opening of the center?
GLO Hbg: GLO is made possible by the collaborative effort of Hamilton Health Center, LGBT Center of Central PA, UPMC Pinnacle’s REACCH program and Valley Youth House with funding from the University of Pittsburgh. Those are our community partners and they’ve spent the past year meeting, planning, budgeting, trying to make this a reality for Harrisburg. At the beginning of this year, I was at a doctor’s appointment and one of the providers told me about a focus group for a possible center for trans women of color and MSM of color they were trying to bring to Harrisburg. I knew that I had to give my input and I did just that. After that, I kept speaking into the universe that I would be working for this center. Late August I got a call with a job offer. I have always wanted to work making a difference and that's just what I’m doing. I understand the task that was placed on me and I don’t take it lightly. Planning this grand opening, being able to sit at the table and having my voice heard is something out of a fairy tale book.
Photo Credit: Facebook.com/GloHbg Center: Jonathan Branch
Upon learning of the center’s opening, how has the community responded to the availability of these services GLO will offer?
GLO Hbg: We are just opening up so just like most businesses it does take a minute for people to really start coming. Altogether the surrounding community and agencies have been very supportive they seem to be interested in what is going to be produced from this center. A lot of times I look up and people are standing at the front door trying to find out just what we do and once we explain, people start telling us about friends or family that may benefit from our services, which is super exciting to hear. There are cis straight allies that want to volunteer their time to help out with things that may need to be done. There are local agencies that call and email to see how we can partner to do different programming. The out pour of help being offered by people in this city is overwhelming. I believe over the next 6 months as things pick up we are going to have an overflow of greatness.
Who will be providing counseling and social services support?
GLO Hbg: One of our partner agencies, Valley Youth House, hired our Case Worker. He’s a Steelton native that is excited to be part of the team and we’re happy to be working with him. We are still seeking an individual or organization to provide therapy to GLO participants. The contract is 8-16 hours a week and I would encourage anyone licensed in Pennsylvania and interested to contact Sarah DeChamplain at firstname.lastname@example.org. Access to free, on-site therapy is going to be a game changer. I think it’s important to add that there’s only so much we can do at GLO. A large part of what we’re working on now is creating a list of contacts from local agencies and service providers. We want to be able to make warm referrals to individuals we’ve met personally and trust that our youth and young adults will be safe and respected in their care.
Where: 1701 N. 3rd St. in the Midtown neighborhood of Harrisburg.
Hours of Operation: Drop-in hours are Monday and Friday from 3:00 - 8:00pm for youth ages 14-17. Young adults, ages 18-29, may meet with staff by appointment only on Tuesdays from Noon until 2pm. Young adult drop in hours are 3:00-8:00pm Tuesday and Thursday.
Photo Credit: Facebook.com/GloHbg
What upcoming events will be held at GLO?
GLO Hbg: GLO has partnered with Ja’Nae Tyler to bring us Harrisburg’s first ball! Tyler is an Icon in the ballroom scene and has invited house members from Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York City to the event. We are doing our part to make sure the City shows up. We want it to be a kick-off event for GLO. We want people to see us, celebrate with us and get excited about what is to come. We invite everyone to meet us Saturday December 21st at the Crowne Plaza Hotel from 3pm-9pm. This event is free to the public. Anyone under the age of 13 must be accompanied by a guardian. We recognize that the holiday season can be very tough for people in general and QTPOC specifically. Holding space during these times is something we’ve been intentional about. Our doors will be open on Dec. 23 from 3pm-6pm for our Winter Celebration. There will be refreshments, Christmas movies, and most importantly a safe affirming environment for queer men and trans women of color. Come through! Aside from that, please keep an eye on our Facebook page to stay updated!
What are the links to social media?
GLO Hbg: For now, Facebook is our only social media platform. We encourage everyone to like us @GLOHbg! Thank you so much.