HANFORD — Local members of the LGBTQ community will soon have a much-needed resource at their disposal as The Source LGBT+ Center moves into Kings County.
The Source, which opened about two years ago in Visalia, has strived to create a safe space for the local gay, lesbian and transgender population to receive fellowship, support and education, as well as offering a centralized community center to celebrate acceptance, diversity and inclusion.
The non-profit organization founded Visalia’s first Pride month celebration event last year and offers counseling on topics like celebrating LGBT artists, voter registration and STD testing and suicide prevention.
But for all the good they’ve been doing, executive director Brian Poth says the first thing The Source team members want to do at their first Kings County pop up event on March 8 is not proclaim what they can do for Hanford, but to ask what the community needs from them.
“We’re in a groove [in Visalia], but every community is different. Visalia is different from Tulare, which is different from Hanford, which is different from Porterville,” Poth said. “We’ll ask the community what they need. To get a community invested, you need their input.”
Poth says each event will be part education, part peer support.
The Source’s pop up events will be held every second Thursday of the month at the Kings County Behavioral Health center, as a partnership with the Tulare-Kings County Suicide Prevention Task Force.
The task force previously had a partnership with The Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to suicide prevention in the LGBT community, but when The Source opened and presented itself as a local resource with the same goal, task force coordinator Noah Whittaker saw it as an opportunity to benefit both organizations.
“The Source has been working diligently in the community since they opened,” Whittaker said. “The task force has been working closely with LGBT clubs since its inception because the LG-plus community has statistically higher suicide rates.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth.
This spike is why Whittaker wants to bring The Source into the county, even if only monthly, saying that even with the Source being centrally located in Visalia, it may still be difficult for teens and young adults to make the trip.
“One goal is to reduce any travel barriers. We want to make these services as accessible as possible,” he said.
Whittaker said the three pillars of what the organizations hope to achieve in Hanford is offering an environment for youth to find fellowship and limited access to counseling, as well as training volunteers.
While the partnership is with the suicide prevention task force and Kings County Behavioral Health, Poth says that the assistance offered at the pop ups won’t be exclusively mental health-based and the team will try to help with any problem being faced, or will refer visitors to a place they can get the help they need.
Poth said that the task force’s invitation to partner up was an indication that The Source was “doing something right.”
Each month, the pop ups will have different themes. March’s inaugural event will be an introduction and an overview and April will be a trans day of visibility.
“We will be looking at how important it is to have trans role models in the community and what that may look like in a rural conservative environment,” Poth said.
Poth said that depending on interest from the community, he could see The Source creating a permanent spot in Kings County, as the vision since its inception was always to be a resource for both Kings and Tulare counties.
“We’d be open to it,” he said. “It’s a possibility.”