Even though Houston’s annual Pride Parade has been postponed until the fall, June is still Pride month, and Pride doesn’t stop for anything—even a pandemic.
“People say gay pride is about the parade and the floats and the chance to dance around in the streets, but, to me, that’s not really what it’s about,” says Al Amado, board chair of Houston LGBTQ+ youth drop-in center, Tony’s Place. “It’s about the idea of the community helping itself, acknowledging its value and worth, and helping each other.”
Whether you still pull all your rainbow gear out of the closet this month or plan to wait and wear it at the parade, here are five Bayou City LGBTQ+ organizations you can support in honor of Pride.
Named after late Houston LGBTQ+ activist Tony Carroll, Tony’s Place supports members of the queer community age 25 and younger who are experiencing homelessness. The majority of individuals the center serves are socio-economically disadvantaged minorities, and this population has been hit especially hard between COVID-19 and the current protests in the wake of Houstonian George Floyd's death, Amado says. “They lack resources because they’re homeless. To now face a pandemic that’s once in a lifetime is a serious blow to them.” Due to pandemic, Tony’s Place is not currently accepting volunteers, but it is accepting donations, including personal hygiene items and funds for hot meals through Meal Train.
There’s no one size fits all when it comes to Houston’s Pride Celebration. The same is true when donating to its operational organization, Pride Houston. Make a general donation or focus on a specific aspect of Pride Houston’s projects including the organization’s scholarships and grants; its history projects and Pride landscaping—who can forget those rainbow banners along Westheimer or the rainbow crosswalks all over Montrose; or the organization’s health and wellness fund, which offers testing and medical support.
If you’ve got any used clothing or homewares that you’re ready to part with, Out of the Closet is a great place to donate to. Not only will your old, crop tops, bike shorts, and unicorn oven mitts find a new, loving home, 96 cents of every dollar goes directly to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Out of the Closet has a donation center at its Montrose location (the national thrift store chain is headquartered in Los Angeles), but you can also call and schedule a pickup for larger items.
The AIDS Foundation Houston is still providing free HIV/AIDS testing during this time, but serving the community during a pandemic means there are additional costs for products like sanitizing supplies, PPE, and cleaning services. On top of that, there’s also AFH’s Stone Soup pantry, which provides food assistance to HIV-positive individuals and their families. In addition to accepting monetary donations, the organization has a list of food and personal hygiene item donations ideal for its Stone Soup program.
A staple in Houston’s LGBTQ+ community, the Montrose Center has been providing behavioral health, support services, and wellness programs since 1978, and its services are especially vital right now as the current pandemic has put a strain on the country’s mental health. “In a time of crisis, any group that is marginalized is more affected than anybody else,” says Austin Davis Ruiz, Montrose Center’s communications and marketing manager. Ruiz says right now the most impactful way to support the center is through its COVID-19 relief fund, which provides everything from financial assistance and meals to tele-therapy and emergency housing. Montrose Center is also holding ongoing donation drives for food to stock its food pantry, PPE for its outreach workers to use, and sanitation items for the center itself.