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New Orleans Gay Leadership Begins To Regroup


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New Orleans Gay Leadership Begins To Regroup

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: September 6, 2005 5:00 pm ET

(Houston, Texas) Several of New Orleans' LGBT community leaders have begun to regroup in Houston where it is believed most of the beleaguered city's gays have relocated following hurricane Katrina.

Some leaders of Equality Louisiana have been evacuated to Baton Rouge and other areas.

But the fate of other of New Orleans LGBT leaders including those connected with the Gay and Lesbian Center of New Orleans remains unknown.

Tuesday, the LGBT Center of Houston announced it has established a fund to support the Lesbian and Gay Community Center of New Orleans in the aftermath of the disaster.

“As of today, we haven't yet been able to reach anyone with the Lesbian and Gay Community Center of New Orleans, but those of us in Houston certainly expect that our New Orleans friends will be able to make use of some extra financial support,” Houston center board member Tim Brookover said.

“We know how important a center can be for a community.”

The Center has also set up an office for Larry Bagneris, the Executive Director of the City of New Orleans Human Relations Commission. One of the most visible members of New Orleans gay community, Bagneris was evacuated to Houston, where he grew up.

"I was one of the last people to leave on Sunday," Bagneris told 365Gay.com. "We're used to hurricanes bypassing us. We have never been in a situation where we've been hit this hard. I left with just the clothes on my back"

Barneris said he has been trying to direct gay New Orleans people to the services available in Houston. Many people did not know how quickly the local community had come together. Bagneris said that Pride Houston has been excellent at helping people find the services they need.

And, Bagneris has a message for New Orleans gays.

"We helping take care of each other now. When the water is pumped out of the city lets go back and build a new and better New Orleans."

Several members of New Orleans AIDS committee have also arrived in Houston. They are now assisting PWAs from New Orleans at AIDS centers in Houston.

The Montrose Counseling Center, which has been at the forefront of LGBT relief efforts in Houston, held its first group counseling session on Tuesday for victims of the hurricane. About a half dozen people told of their harrowing evacuation from New Orleans, of not being able to find loved ones, and their fears of the future.

"There's anger, there are tears, and there is a lot of fear, Center spokesperson Sally Huffer told 365Gay.com

But Huffer also said that many hurricane victims don't yet realize that LGBT help is available. Others are still in shock, unable to come to the full realization of what has happened. Huffer said as the days go on she expects far more people to show up for help.

The Center has prepared a data base of area gay homes where people have volunteered to take in people. Donations of food and other supplies have been piling up at the Bering Omega AIDS clinic.

At the Montrose AIDS Clinic and Bering Omega a large number of people have come in seeking meds. But, before the drugs can be handed out, people must be tested for HIV/AIDS all over again - further delaying when people can resume their medication.

MCC churches in many areas including Baton Rouge are offering meals and housing to hurricane victims.

Toni Broadus of Equality Federation - an umbrella group of state LGBT organizations - said the full extend of the need will not become clear for weeks or even months.

"We need to bring money in as quickly as possible and then decide how to allocate it," she told 365Gay.com.

Money and offers of help are coming in from across the country.

This Friday, numerous LGBT organizations in San Francisco are coming together to hold a fundraising benefit for residents of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. The fundraiser will take place at El Rio on Mission Street. Proceeds will go toward the Rainbow World Fund, an LGBT humanitarian agency.

Nationally, LGBT community centers are looking at the situation in New Orleans and the way Houston is tackling the problem of distributing aid and wondering how prepared local communities are in the event of disaster.

Sheila Healy of the National Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Centers said there needs to be an awareness that a New Orleans type disaster could hit any town or city anywhere in the country.

Healy said that community centers across the country are struggling to survive, but noted there's strength in numbers.

©365Gay.com 2005


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