Community initiative spotlight: OUTSaskatoon

By in Opinions

A vibrant and dynamic volunteer base is essential to the operation of the programs and events of OUTSaskatoon — so if you want to make a difference by volunteering for the community, look no further than this organization.

OUTSaskatoon got its start in 1991 as Gay & Lesbian Health Services. Its purpose then was to address the mental, emotional, physical and social health needs of gay men and lesbians in Saskatchewan. GLHS offered a peer-support phone line, educational information and resources, and facilitated support groups.

OUTSaskatoon continues to provide support and education, and the organization has flourished in recent years with the establishment of a plethora of social groups. From their support group for 10- to 14-year-olds to their safe space for older adults, OUTSaskatoon continues to strive to ensure inclusivity. Their current vision is to create a community that values and supports people of all gender identities, expressions and sexualities.

Contributions from volunteers are fundamental to the existence of OUTSaskatoon. The Gens Hellquist Queer Sexual Health Clinic, opened by OUTSaskatoon in 2012, was Saskatchewan’s first clinic geared towards the sexual health of gay and bisexual people, as well as men who have sex with men. The clinic expanded to include services for lesbian and trans individuals in 2013 and is open to patients of all gender and sexual identities.

OUTSaskatoon’s Queer Sexual Health Clinic could not operate without the assistance of volunteers.

As well as the clinic, the organization runs countless events for the community. Drag shows and poetry nights enable LGBTQ2S+ people to socialize with fellow community members, and events such as the Scotiabank AIDS Walk and Transgender Awareness Week encourage education on issues that affect the queer and trans community. Without volunteers, these events also would not exist.

The establishment of OUTSaskatoon’s Pride Home earlier this year is perhaps the organization’s biggest achievement to date, given that it is the first long-term group home for LGBTQ2S+ youth in Canada.

OUTSaskatoon opened Pride Home, firstly, because a significant amount of queer and trans youth were being kicked out of their homes after coming out. Secondly, homeless LGBTQ2S+ youth faced barriers in available youth housing. Youth shelters do exist in Saskatoon — however, they are all gendered. Prior to the Pride Home, many queer and trans youth were compelled to live as a member of a gender with which they did not identify.

A survey conducted by OUTSaskatoon found that 40 per cent of members in OUTSaskatoon’s youth group, Rainbow Coffee, had experienced homelessness or problems with housing at some point in their lives. A fundraising campaign for OUTSaskatoon’s Pride Home began in September, as the organization needs donations to ensure the safety of homeless queer and trans youth.

Whatever your skills or abilities, OUTSaskatoon would love for you to come out to the centre and put them to use. Check out www.outsaskatoon.ca/volunteer for more information on how to get involved.

Marianne Holt

Photo: Michaela DeMong