A special place for GLBT youth

"I was kicked out of my grandparents' house due to my homosexuality," said Peter (not his real name), age 17. "They did not approve of me having a boyfriend. When I found out that I wouldn't have a place to live, I talked to a Lambert House case manager. She helped me to get into foster care."

You might have passed many times by the modest blue house on 15th Avenue and not have known that the building is a safe haven for queer youth. But Lambert House will celebrate its 15th anniversary this year, and last year underwent significant renovations with help from volunteers from Microsoft, City Year, Seattle Works, Casey Family Program, Lambert House and others.

Gay boys, lesbian girls, transgenders and questioning youths age 14 to 22, can come to Lambert House six days a week. And they don't just come from Seattle. Participants come from all over King County and beyond, including Shoreline, Federal Way, Tacoma, Auburn and Aberdeen, to name just a few.

Health services, such as free HIV testing and safer-sex education, are offered at Lambert House. Academic support, job skills training, support groups, social events, cultural series, creative activities, recreational outings and film series are examples of other activities that are available. Staff help GLBT youth meet basic and not-so-basic needs. That includes dinner prepared by supportive volunteers with lively conversations at the table with youth, staff and volunteers.

Youthful energy is a vital part of the house. Lambert House youths run initial youth orientations, are ambassadors to other gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered (GLBT) organizations, schools and community forums and speak at Seattle City Council hearings. Youth also create community events, like the annual Pink Prom, Summer is a Drag and the Snowflake Festival.

Homeless youth services, which are often harder for GLBT youth to find due to the stigma that often accompanies their sexuality, are available every Thursday from 11 a.m to 2 p.m. These include such basic needs as laundry facilities, showers, hygiene supplies and referrals for free health care and housing.

Counseling and case management, together with supportive staff and volunteers, help GLBT youth realize they aren't abandoned, that they aren't alone. Mental health counseling for youth is available two evenings per week, with more hours likely to be added in the future.

Youth play pool, use the Bohnett Cyber Center and enjoy quiet moments with a book in the well-stocked library. Some youth prefer listening to music. Music is, of course, an important part of youth culture and Lambert House is a place where participants can express themselves. A blackboard covers a wall where youth engage their creative spirit by sketching with colored chalks.

There are house rules that all youth must follow. If not, they face being 86'd, and have to stay away from the house for a specified period of time.

What made me, a straight woman, be a part of the Lambert House family? Two lesbian girlfriends cook dinner there on Monday evenings. Since having a conversation with them, I have been coming to Lambert House once a week, on Friday evenings, for more than a year. It's been a hugely rewarding experience.

The kids who at first ignored me and did not reply to my greetings, asked one Friday: "Where were you last Friday?" I, an independent adult, had to explain my whereabouts to a teenager. (And I did, saying, "I was taking a trip to Canada over the New Year holiday and could not be here. But I missed you."

"Yeah, we missed you too," came the reply. I swallowed my tears.

Lambert House provides GLBT youth with a safe place to be, a place removed from the hostile home or other social environments they may have just fled. It's a place where they can make new friends, meet with old friends, chat with volunteers and staff, learn about social services they may need and help develop into emotionally sound, healthy adults.

Ken Shulman, Lambert House executive director, said that Lambert House "is a calm place. The volunteer pool is full and all the programs are running smoothly."

Lambert House is at 1818 15th Ave. To become part of the Lambert House volunteer program, go to www.lamberhouse.org or call 322-2515.

Rozalia Skowron is a Capitol Hill resident and GLBT ally. She can be reached at editor@capitolhilltimes.com.[[In-content Ad]]