True Colors, the Hartford-based nonprofit offering an array of resources for LGBTQ youth over the last 22 years, has abruptly closed its doors.
In a news release issued Jan. 27, the organization said it was pausing all program activities and “releasing” staff indefinitely. The decision was made after an unnamed consulting firm was hired to evaluate the organization’s ability to stay open amid pandemic-related economic challenges, according to the release.
Along with serving LGBTQ youth in the general population, True Colors also ran the only LGBTQ mentorship program for children under the care of the Department of Children and Families. The one-on-one program, one of two in the country, connects volunteers with about 60 at-risk youth, according to the DCF website.
The loss of these services has left many leaders in the community struggling to fill the gap, including Patrick Dunn, director of the New Haven Pride Center.
“There is only a finite number of LGBTQ-specific nonprofits in the state of Connecticut, and we are all spread very thin to try to do work that is vital for keeping people alive,” Dunn said. “Losing anyone from that ecosystem is extremely damaging. Obviously all of us collectively are going to continue to work to make sure everyone has what they need. We have to do this work, we don’t have any other option.”
The New Haven Pride Center provides a variety of resources to the LGBTQ community, including support groups for transgender adults, those beginning to explore their gender, and more. While the New Haven Pride Center does some youth work, Dunn said it’s very limited and that holds true for all other LGBTQ-specific organizations in the state.
“Realistically, when we look at the landscape, between all of these organizations we have maybe one part-time staff member dedicated to youth programming because True Colors had five staff members full time dedicated to youth programming. So now we’ve lost that as a community,” Dunn added.
Dunn is unsure who will take on the contract with DCF or whether it’s possible yet. Regardless, he hopes this is a wake-up call about the vulnerability of LGBTQ nonprofits.
“This is a very loud ringing bell to anyone and everyone who has the ability to invest in LGBTQ nonprofits to realize that we’re here and that we need their support,” Dunn said. “And my other great hope is that this reminds us, the LGBTQ community, that we have to continue talking to each other, we need to support each other and we need to always forge forward as a community.”