The Pacific Center for Human Growth has been working to provide the Bay Area’s LGBTQ+ community with the resources its members need to maintain their mental health since 1973.
According to Leslie Ewing, executive director at Pacific Center, the main issue LGBTQ+ youths face is isolation. Whether it is self-inflicted or caused by an unaccepting environment, LGBTQ+ youths still feel isolated and come to the Pacific Center to be in a safe place where they are not questioned but rather accepted, Ewing added.
“If you identify as LGBTQ+, when you come here, you don’t have to explain yourself, like that’s the problem or issue,” Ewing said. “We’re not trying to convince someone to be one way or the other. … Let’s talk about what’s happening in your life.”
Pacific Center hosts two youth programs — the Youth Speaker’s Bureau, and Loving Ourselves and Uniting Diversity, or LOUD, which is an after-school youth program. The center also organizes peer groups led by volunteers and mental health clinics.
Led by mental health therapists, the LOUD youth program helps provide a place for LGBTQ+ youths and allies, ages 14 to 18, to meet from 4-6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays. Ewing said this small group of 25 to 30 people can learn more about the LGBTQ+ community through each other’s stories. Occasionally, special guests attend these group sessions to educate the attendees about difficult issues such as bullying and domestic violence.
According to the Pacific Center’s website, the LOUD program trains its members to become leaders in the Youth Speaker’s Bureau. With knowledge from the LOUD programs, these teens lead discussions on anti-bullying efforts and share experiences of coming out at schools in the Bay Area.
The organization’s mental health clinic operates from Monday through Saturday, according to its website. Along with the mental health clinic, there is a 24-hour counseling request line open at 510-548-8283.
According to Ewing, the clinic is open to everyone — appointments with the therapist cost about $45 per session. Ewing added that the Pacific Center also offers therapy for the LGBTQ+ community in senior centers through its Older and Out Therapy Groups.
“It’s primarily to support people who are very isolated, since it’s a generation that didn’t really experience the great coming-out period of the ’80s,” Ewing said.
The Pacific Center also hosts 17 peer groups for adults throughout Alameda County. The groups are usually led by trained volunteers and meet once a week.
Tristan Miller, a data scientist and UC Berkeley alumnus, said he moved to Berkeley in 2011 and looked for a LGBTQ+ group on campus that would meet his needs. He said he found that the LGBTQ+ groups for graduate students seemed a bit less structured than he had wanted.
When he learned about the Pacific Center, Miller said he discovered that the organization’s Transitional Age Group, or TAG, would fit his needs and help him make friends in a new environment.
“It sort of filled this niche that the university’s groups didn’t fill,” Miller said of his experience with TAG.