Saturday, April 22, 2017

Oregon: Youth Shelter In Hot Water After Rejecting Sizable Cash Donation from Gay Men's Chorus While Requesting More Funding from City

There is a story in the news right now about a youth shelter in Grants Pass, OR, -- the only youth shelter in Josephine and Jackson counties -- that was begging for $26,000 in extra funding from the city, while simultaneously rejecting a $3,000 donation from a charity concert by the Portland Gay Men's Chorus.

Hearts With A Mission normally receives $50,000 annually from the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety. They approached the city for an additional $26,000 to get through the fiscal year, citing unforeseen problems with the shelter. A member of the public questioned the request for additional city funds when the Hearts With A Mission had just turned down a $3,000 donation from the gay men's chorus last month. This led to scrutiny by members of the city council.

Hearts With A Mission's executive director, Kevin Lamson, continues to defend the decision to reject the donation from the gay men's chorus, saying that it had nothing to do with being anti-gay and more to do with maintaining the safety of the shelter's teen residents. 

Near as I can tell, they were afraid that members of the public would stop donating money to the shelter if they knew that the shelter accepted a one-time monetary donation from an LGBT organization.

This story began appearing in the media earlier this week and then began appearing on gay blogs yesterday. 

Hearts With A Mission issued an official statement yesterday, attempting to explain their decision and apologizing for rejecting money from the gay men's choir:
Official Statement from Hearts With A Mission 
RE: Turning Down of the Portland Gay Men's Chorus Contribution 
We regret the outcomes of turning down the funds from Portland Gay Men’s Chorus event. We recognize this situation should have been handled differently. Hearts With A Mission made this decision in an attempt to keep the focus on the youth services we provide and avoid undo controversy. We are very glad another local program serving homeless youth was the beneficiary of the funds. 
We did not mean to disrespect the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus or to the LGBTQ Community. Hearts With A Mission believes in helping all youth, regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion, or ethnicity. We meet every youth where they are at and welcome them into our shelters. This is how we started 8-years ago and it is how we will be 20 years from now. 
Our inclusive practices apply not only to the youth we serve, but also to our staff, board members, volunteers, and community partners. These are the values we live by. As a result, we have nondiscrimination policies and procedures in place we adhere to with the strictest of standards. We provide trainings annually to ensure our organization follows all policies and procedures.”
They plan to have an official press conference on Tuesday the 25th. Meanwhile, they are stressing that they don't turn away LGBTQ youth and I've seen statements from two gay youth stating that they were served well by the shelter.

Sadly, people are defending the rights of the shelter to reject money from the choir -- or anyone else, for that matter. I agree. But it looks bad when you're begging for public cash at the same time that you're turning away a large private donation. Meanwhile, someone actually suggested that the Portland Gay Men's Chorus raised money for Hearts With A Mission in a deliberate bid to stir up controversy.

Incidentally, the money originally raised for Hearts With A Mission was instead given to the Maslow Project, another organization that serves youth in that county. According to that group's director, there hasn't been any public outcry about that donation.

No comments: