Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms campaigned as a supporter of Atlanta’s LGBTQ community. In answer to that, she formed the city’s first LGBTQ advisory board. They held their first official meeting Friday morning at City Hall.
The group plans to take on big issues, like homelessness and the HIV epidemic. To do that, it has structured itself into focused committees: health, youth, transgender issues, arts, entertainment and culture and economic and community development.
“The Mayor could have come in and said we’ve done enough, we’re already there,” said Pam Stewart, the board’s co-chair. “She didn’t do that. She said we still have work to do, we want to take it from great to exceptional and not just rest at great.” Stewart promised this would be a board that gets things done and will have progress to show for its quarterly meetings.
Audrey Krumbach, is the interim director of Lost-n-Found Youth, a nonprofit helping Atlanta’s hundreds of homeless LGBTQ young people. She’s not on the board but spoke at the meeting. She said it’s productive to bring everyone together like this.
“It may start in a committee room but it will take place in nonprofits, city agencies and developers’ offices throughout the city,” she said. “I think we can end LGBTQ homelessness but it’s going to take every single person in the city to do their part.”
Kirk Rich, the other board co-chair, said they welcome all voices to the table.
“We want to hear from people,” he said. “If there’s something connected to our communities that needs action or help, that’s what we’re here for.”
Rich admitted these big problems won’t just go away, but is optimistic this group will make progress in the meantime. “There will be no finish date [to the work]. This is an ongoing issue to make sure that equality reigns and all people are heard. That job sadly will never be done, but by God we’re going to make a lot of action on it.”
One clear consensus at the meeting? The need to bring together different groups working on LGBTQ issues so they can better cooperate.
“I think this is just the beginning. These will be ongoing conversations but I’m very hopeful,” said Alvin Huntspon, a member of Lost-n-Found Youth’s board.
CORRECTION: This report has been updated to show Alvin Huntspon’s position as a member of Lost-n-Found Youth’s board.