The Power of Pride and Partnerships

Jun 30 2021

Pride Foundation was among the recipients of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation's COVID-19 response funding, as part of our focused support of underserved communities in Washington state.

We spoke with Pride Foundation’s Director of Programs and Strategy Jeremiah J. Allen and Senior Program Officer Kim Sogge about the ways COVID-19 impacted the Pacific Northwest’s LGBTQ+ community and their hopes as we emerge from the pandemic. 

How have you seen the COVID pandemic impact the LGBTQ+ community in the Northwest?  

Jeremiah Allen: The Seattle area was ground zero for COVID-19 in the United States. It immediately impacted the LGBTQ+ community. From important community support organizations shutting down to new challenges for many immunocompromised, we had a lot of community members who didn't have resources. Very early on, Pride Foundation needed to meet these needs.

How did Pride Foundation lend its support during this time?

Kim Sogge: There was a lot of uncertainty. As things were shutting down, these organizations were bracing themselves. Funding sources were diminishing, and needs only increasing. 

Pride Foundation quickly mobilized and put together the Crisis Community Care Fund – a way to support the organizations who meet the critical needs of LGBTQ+ people and our community. 

Jeremiah: The first round of giving in April of 2020 was a little less than $100,000 and was around $5,000 to each organization. As soon as we started getting more funding, we were more proactive. Organizations were stretched thin. They were afraid that they were not going to be able to pay staff or utilities bills and just didn’t have time to fill out applications. So, every 4-6 weeks, we were able to provide proactive grant awards to help with the support they needed. By the end of 2020, we were able to award 105 grants totaling nearly one million dollars. 

In what ways did grantees use this money? 

Jeremiah: For some, the grant money helped them deliver food and helped ensure those who were immunocompromised had the disinfectant and cleaning supplies they needed to stay safe. Many grants afforded organizations the ability to develop programming specific to the LGBTQ+ community. One grantee, UTOPIA Washington, created handwashing and sanitation stations for sex workers to be safe. Another, the Montana Two Spirit Society in partnership with The Center, not only started doing substance abuse webinars for their community members, but also made masks and traditional care packages for LGBTQ+ community members and Two Spirit elders across the state. It was beautiful to watch how our different grantees were filling gaps and needs.

Kim: One of the first requests that I got was from an organization in southern Oregon. Everyone was working from home and they just needed a small grant to be able to get internet access and technology for their clients. For some of our partners, especially in rural areas, their organizing work was done at kitchen tables or within small communities. It was great to help them transition from that to a virtual world. 

Pride Foundation's Jeremiah J. Allen and Kim Sogge. Photo courtesy Pride Foundation.

We understand there was a lack of data on the pandemic’s impact on LGBTQ+ communities, but are there any stats you can share that underscore COVID’s impact?  

Jeremiah: In every area – whether it’s employment, education, mental health and suicide – historically there’s been a lack of data on the LGBTQ+ communitiesy. The pandemic exacerbated this. 

One example is unemployment. LGBTQ+ community members already disproportionately suffer from unemployment. I recently saw a stat collected by a national LGBTQ+ organization. Before the pandemic, 15% of LGBTQ+ adults and 17% of LGBTQ+ adults of color were unemployed. Today, 22% of LGBTQ+ adults and 24% of LGBTQ+ adults of color are currently unemployed.

But a lot of communities across our region and across the country don't collect those data points. When the government or local municipalities are thinking about their policies, they aren’t using data for their work impacting our community. As a result, LGBTQ+ communities were really left out of a lot of the different government services such as some of the COVID relief that was out there.

What are your greatest concerns for the community coming out of the pandemic?

Jeremiah: One of the things that I think a lot about is our tendency as a society to go back to the way things used to be. My biggest concern and worry is that we will. This will disproportionately impact LGBTQ+ communities. 

My other concern is around the progress we’ve made in equity. The social and racial unrest throughout 2020 definitely impacted LGBTQ+ people, specifically Black LGBTQ+ groups and the work they are doing. My fear is once everything starts going back to normal that people will stop looking for the changes we need to make. 

Kim: We must continue moving forward. As an organization that's something that we're pushing for as well. We need to use the pandemic as an opportunity to continue to push for change and work in our communities too.

What gives you hope coming out of the pandemic? How has the foundation changed in the last year and what excites you about this?

Kim: The way our organization and staff team adapted, shifted, and changed gives me hope. We are committed even more clearly to our values. I think that the more we display this with our community partners and peers, we’ll hopefully push the sector forward and change the way we care for one another as well as the communities that we’re serving.

Jeremiah: The pandemic made it possible for us to shift and deepen our commitment to our values in ways that I think would have taken several years. Our Crisis Community Care Fund is a good example of this. 

The fund was proactive, didn't require applications, and pushed money out to organizations in a trust-based way. It’s something that should’ve happened before and will radically shift our grant making for the future. I want nothing more than for the LGBTQ+ community to feel empowered, to feel they have all the tools they needed, and feel trusted.

Does the Crisis Community Care Fund have a future when the pandemic is over? 

Kim: For as long as we’ve existed we’ve always needed to be responsive to the community needs. The fund showed us that we could move funds quickly with no strings attached and gave us a model for how we can continue. At least for the next two years it will be around as our community rebuilds from the pandemic.