Rapid City, S.D. February 25, 2022-The LGBTQ+ Family Connections Center, a registered nonprofit organization announced today that Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo has joined its Board of Directors.
Benatar responded to the announcement by stating, “We are happy to be partnered with the LGBTQ+ Family Connections Center. For four decades, Neil and I have been advocates for children’s issues, and are one thousand percent invested to help end homelessness for youth, however they identify.”
“Pat and Neil have been incredible change makers, not only in forward innovative music and entertainment, also in their unending pursuit of ensuring the world is a better place for youth. Both stand above and beyond in their dedication to improving the lives of children. We can’t be more grateful as an organization to both Pat and Neil in their efforts to help us bring more attention to the dire needs of the youth we serve,” said Joe Barb, Director of the LGBTQ+ Family Connections Center.
Up to 40% of unaccompanied youth seeking services for homelessness identify as LGBTQ+. The largest risk factors for homelessness for the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit community are often family rejection resulting from sexual orientation or gender identity: running away from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, aging out of the foster care system, and financial and emotional neglect. Family rejection alone accounts for such a significant percentage of homeless LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit youth.
While searching for housing, in shelters, and on the streets, LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit youth disproportionately endure harassment, stigmatization, and abuse from peers and even shelter staff because of their sexual orientation and/or gender expression, further adding to trauma.
LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit youth find it difficult to find housing and are often asked to leave shelters after revealing their sexual or gender identity. As a result of harassment and negative experiences in shelters, LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit youth are especially vulnerable to living on the streets, physical and sexual exploitation, experience high rates of conduct disorder, post-traumatic stress, and suicidal behavior.
Headquartered in the Black Hills, The LGBTQ+ Family Connections Center serves at risk LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit youth, as well as all youth 18-24 at risk, however they identify, with programs and supportive services and plan to establish a Community and Counseling Center, with employment resources, emergency housing, STI/STD testing and prevention, as well as community education and advocacy.
Plans for outreach will include the Upper Great Plains states of South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Montana, which is currently a desert zone for many targeted services.
The organization is currently working on a timeline to complete their implementation of services, and plan to open the Community and Counseling Center, with Rapid and Transitional Housing in the coming months.
Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo not only champion for children, but they also honor the memory of Benatar’s late brother, Andrew Andrzejewski, or ‘Andy’ as he was known. Andy was part of the LGBTQ+ community, supporting and advocating for the LGBTQ+ community has always been close to both Benatar and Giraldo’s hearts.