MCALLEN, Texas (KVEO) — In honor of national coming out day, the Valley AIDS Council (VAC) hosted a virtual grand opening of its new LGBTQ youth drop in center — the first of its kind in the Rio Grande Valley.
“We wanted them to have a home where they knew they could come in and be safe, be who they are, regardless of their gender or sexual identity,” said Steven Cano, Community Mobilization Coordinator for Valley AIDS Council.
Over Facebook live, Cano co-hosted the opening of Casa Orgullo.
“Legal services, HIV testing and counseling, outreach, tutors for college preparedness, mental health and wellbeing services,” said Josephine Flores, VAC’s McAllen site supervisor, explaining the services the drop-in center will offer.
Casa Orgullo, which translates to pride home, has been in the works since the beginning of the year. To determine what to offer, the council ran a community assessment, which they say opened their eyes to how important it was to offer a safe space for LGBTQ youth.
“Through their perspective, how they wish this was something they had, 10, 15, 20, 30-plus years ago, that just really showed us that not only is it much needed now, it was also much needed back then,” said Cano.
Cano and Flores say this investment is a major step forward for the RGV, Texas and the nation as a whole.
“Today’s youth are really those that are going to change our world for tomorrow,” said Cano.
The live stream also featured a video compilation of advocates and local leaders offering their encouragement and support. With the community’s backing, Flores says they are excited and ready to help empower youth.
“We were blown away just by how many people watched,” said Flores. “So we can only imagine how many people will start reaching out to us once we start our virtual workshops and projects.”
For now, the services are being provided virtually, though they look forward to opening in-person once they deem it safe.
To get in contact with VAC for these programs call (956) 668-1155.